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IACM-Bulletin of June 3, 2012


🏷️ Science/Human — THC did not slow the progress of multiple sclerosis in large clinical study

THC capsules failed to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) in a large British study led by Dr. John Zajicek, a professor of neurology at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry of the University of Plymouth, UK. Despite promising signs in an earlier study with a duration of 12 months, researchers found patients who took capsules containing THC fared no better than those given a placebo after a treatment of 3 years.

The finding is a disappointment for researchers who thought that THC might not only provide relief from spasticity and pain related to MS but also a viable therapy in the disease's secondary progressive stage, when patients have few treatment options. Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients were assessed in the trial known as CUPID (cannabinoid use in progressive inflammatory brain disease) on both a disability scale administered by neurologists and another based on their own reporting. "Overall the study found no evidence to support an effect of THC on MS progression in either of the main outcomes," Zajicek said. However, the study did find some evidence to suggest a beneficial effect in less disabled patients but because this was seen in only a small group of people it was unclear how strong the effect was. The overall study population also experienced slower disease progression than had been expected, making it more challenging to detect any treatment difference between THC and placebo, the study team added. Results of the studies have not yet been published in a medical journal.

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Source: Reuters of 28 May 2012.

News in brief

🌐 USA — President Obama was a regular cannabis user

President Barack Obama, it turns out, was a regular cannabis user in college. Obama belonged to a group called the “Choom Gang,” with “choom” being a verb meaning “to smoke marijuana,” according to excerpts of the new Obama biography by David Maraniss, journalist of the Washington Post.

Source: Washington Post of 25 May 2012.

🏷️ Science/Human — Cannabis reduces mortality risk in psychotic disorders

The use of cannabis was associated with a reduced death risk in a study with 762 people with psychotic disorder. Study participants were followed for a period of 4 to 10 years, in which 62 died. Five- and ten-year mortality risk was lower in cannabis users than in non-users. Authors wrote: “We observed a lower mortality risk in cannabis-using psychotic disorder patients compared to cannabis non-users despite subjects having similar symptoms and treatments.”

Department of Psychiatry, Treatment Research Program, Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA.

Source: Koola MM, et al. J Psychiatr Res. 2012 May 15. [in press].

🌐 Italy — First regional law for medical cannabis

The first law in Italy for the medical use of cannabis has been approved by the Tuscan Regional Council. The law will simplify the use of cannabinoid drugs in the treatment of specific diseases such as multiple sclerosis, depression or glaucoma, by reducing the current bureaucratic procedure and time for the approval process. In Italy cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed and imported, for example Bedrocan cannabis from the Netherlands.

Source: Adnkronos of 3 March 2012

The Norwegian Association for cannabinoid medicines (Norsk forening for cannabinoidmedisin) was recently founded and its website is now available:

Source: personal communication.

🏷️ Science/Human — Third phase III study on Sativex on cancer pain commences

The British company GW Pharmaceuticals announced the initiation of a third Phase III clinical trial of its cannabis extract Sativex in the treatment of pain in patients with advanced cancer. This and two other trials are designed to obtain approval in this indication from the US authorities, and these data will also be used by GW for future regulatory applications in this indication in Europe and around the world. GW has previously announced the start of two 380 patient Phase III cancer pain studies, both of which are proceeding. This newly commenced third Phase III trial is a supportive study intended to provide, as needed, supplementary data to that generated in the first two studies.

Source: GW Pharmaceuticals of 22 May 2012.

🏷️ Science/Animal — CBD inhibits formation of new blood vessels in cancer

Cannabidiol (CBD) inhibits the formation of new blood vessels, called angiogenesis, in tumours by different mechanisms. Researchers concluded: “Its dual effect on both tumour and endothelial cells reinforces the hypothesis that CBD could represent a potential effective agent in cancer therapy.”

Department of Biomedical, Computer and Communication Sciences, University of Insubria, Busto Arsizio, Italy.

Source: Solinas M, et al. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 May 25. [in press].

🏷️ Science/Animal — Cannabinoids reduced neuropathic pain in diabetes

In rats suffering from type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes a synthetic cannabinoid (WIN55,212-2) reduced neuropathic pain by acting on cannabinoid receptors in the brain and on peripheral nerves. Authors wrote: “Cannabinoids, acting on systemic and/or peripheral receptors, may serve as a new therapeutic alternative for symptom management in painful neuropathy associated with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”

Source: Vera G, et al. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2012 May 17. [in press].

🏷️ Science/Cells — CBD effective against prostate cancer cells

Cannabidiol (CBD) and several cannabis extracts reduced viability of prostate cancer cells. The extracts were more effective than single cannabinoids. Authors concluded: “These data support the clinical testing of CBD against prostate carcinoma.”

Endocannabinoid Research Group, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Istituto di Cibernetica, Istituto di Chimica Biomolecolare Istituto di Biochimica delle Proteine, Italy.

Source: De Petrocellis L, et al. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 May 18. [in press].

🏷️ Science/Animal — Cannabinoids reduce pain produced by cancer chemotherapy

Painful peripheral neuropathy is a dose-limiting complication of chemotherapy. Cisplatin produces a cumulative toxic effect on peripheral nerves and many cancer patients receiving this agent experience pain. In animals the injection of the endocannabinoid anandamide attenuated this pain. Authors wrote that “these results suggest that pharmacological facilitation of AEA signalling is a promising strategy for attenuating cisplatin-associated sensory neuropathy.”

Departments of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences and Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.

Source: Khasabova IA, et al. J Neurosci 2012;32(20):7091-101.