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IACM-Bulletin of May 13, 2001


Science UK — Four phase II trials with cannabis successful

GW Pharmaceuticals said it had obtained encouraging results from phase II clinical trials with cannabis and was now extending its program into Phase III trials.

The company has invested 12 million pounds (17 million US dollars) in its research and hopes to market its first prescription cannabis-based medicine in 2003. GW's trials have involved patients taking cannabis-based medicine by spraying it under their tongues.

Dr. Geoffrey Guy, chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, said: "Data from our four Phase II studies in approximately 70 subjects is positive and encouraging. Patients are clearly gaining benefit." Results appeared to show significant reduction in pain, muscle spasm and bladder dysfunction as well as improved neurological function.

Guy said the company had received approval from Canadian health authorities allowing it to start trials in Canada.

(Source: Reuters of 2 May 2001)

France — Medical use of cannabis before the court

On 3 May the administrative court of Paris examined the question of medical use of cannabis by two patients, members of the Mouvement de légalisation contrôlée (MLC, movement for controlled legalisation).

In the name of 10 persons with incurable diseases the MLC had applied for the importation of 10 kilograms of cannabis to the Health Ministry in 1998. Health Minister Bernard Kouchner did not answer and the MLC appealed to the administrative court.

The representative of the government spoke out against the claims of the MLC. According to the government international treaties are opposed to the demand of the two patients to import cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

The ruling by the six judges is expected by 29 May.

(Source: AFP of 2 May 2001, AP of 3 May 2001)

Canada — Concerns by the Canadian Medical Association

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) expressed concerns in its response to Health Canada's draft regulations on the medicinal use of cannabis. The draft regulations expand the scope of illnesses for which cannabis can be used and changes the role of the physician.

The CMA urges the government to increase its efforts to assess the clinical efficacy of marijuana's active ingredients in order to develop evidence-based guidelines for its use. "We understand the pressures on Health Canada and are willing to work with the department on an urgent basis to establish parameters for the judicious medicinal use of marijuana," said Dr. Barrett, President of the CMA.

According to the CMA physicians were not in a position to counsel patients regarding the use of cannabis, specifically with regard to proper dosage, interactions with other drugs, or its impact on other pre-existing medical conditions.

Meanwhile the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that the police has no problem with the medical use of marijuana.

(Sources: CMA news release of 8 May 2001, CCN Newswire of 8 May 2001, Toronto Sun of 8 May 2001)

News in brief

Austria — Medical use

A 43 year old AIDS patient was allowed by a judge to cultivate and use cannabis for therapeutic reasons. Several medical expert opinions supported the use of cannabis by the man living in Wels, who has already been convicted several times due to the possession of cannabis. (Source: ORF of 1 May 2001)

Science — Neuropathic pain

Researchers of Novartis in London (UK) examined the effects of cannabinoid agonists on hyperalgesia in a model of neuropathic pain in the rat. The results show that cannabinoids are highly potent and efficacious antihyperalgesic agents. This activity is likely to be mediated via an action in both the central nervous system and in the periphery. (Source: Fox A, et al. Pain 2001 May;92(1-2):91-100.)

UK — Scotland

Scots favour cannabis on prescription. A survey by Herald newspaper showed that 64 percent of those interviewed said the drug should be legalised on prescription, while a further 15 percent said it should be made available for general use. In December 2000 eight out of 10 doctors called for the right to prescribe cannabis for their patients. (Source: Comtex Newswire of 8 May 2001)

USA — Oregon

About 1,600 Oregonians hold cards that allow them to legally use cannabis to treat specific maladies. The 1998 law allows patients who qualify for the cards to possess up to 3 ounces. (Source: Register-Guard of 8 May 2001)

USA — Nevada

Lawmakers said on 7 May that the state does not have the money to start a medical marijuana program overwhelmingly approved by the voters in 1998 and 2000. They said that no money exists this year to pay the 30,000 U.S. dollars start-up costs. (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal of 8 May 2001)

Holland — Drive-through-Shops

Dutch authorities plan to open two drive-through shops next year where "drug tourists" can buy marijuana and hashish. The officials in Venlo say they want to make it easier for Germans who come to the southern Dutch border town for drugs. They also want to keep the "drug tourists" from lingering in the Netherlands. Cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but authorities tolerate their use and it is openly sold in small amounts. (Source: Associated Press of 2 May 2001)

USA — U.N. drug policy

The U.S.A. lost its seat on the International Narcotics Control Board. They had campaigned for a third term for American representative Herbert Okun, who has served as vice president of the board, but he was voted off. The 13-member INCB monitors compliance with U.N. drug conventions on substance abuse. (Source: AP of 7 May 2001)