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IACM-Bulletin of November 23, 2003


Science — THC reduces agitation in Alzheimer's disease in phase II study

Results from a multi-centre study show that THC (dronabinol), the pharmacologically most important ingredient in cannabis, reduces agitation in patients with Alzheimer's disease. In addition, researchers concluded that reduced agitation may result in relief of caregivers. The findings were presented at the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists' 34th annual meeting on 12-15 November, San Antonio, USA.

"Our results show dronabinol is an effective treatment for behavioral agitation in patients with Alzheimer's and may ultimately help reduce the stress often experienced by caregivers," said geriatrician Dr. Joel S. Ross a member of the teaching faculty at Monmouth Medical Center and the lead investigator in the study.

The Phase II, open label, randomized, parallel-group study involved 54 patients, all who demonstrated behavioural agitation (mean age: 81 years). Following a one-week qualifying period to evaluate the degree of agitation, patients were randomized to one of two treatment groups (THC 2.5 mg twice daily or THC 5 mg twice daily). Patients received THC for 8 weeks.

The primary efficacy measurement was the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation scale, that evaluates the prevalence of pathological and disruptive behaviours. Evaluation at nine weeks found significant reductions of agitation scores in both groups. There also was a trend toward a decrease in the caregiver burden scores.

Abstract at:

(Sources: Ross JS, Shua-Haim JR. Open-label study of dronabinol in the treatment of refractory agitation in Alzheimer’s disease: a pilot study. Poster presented at ASCP's 34th Annual Meeting, 2003; Source: EurekAlert of 14 November 2003)

IACM Haworth — Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics will cease production in 2004

"It is with regret that I report that the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics will cease production early in 2004, due to low numbers of subscribers and suitable article submissions. A more complete explanation will be published in issue 4(1) of the JCANT," said Dr. Ethan Russo, editor of the Journal and member of the Board of Directors of the IACM.

The Journal is published by Haworth Press and is the official Journal of the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine. The first issue appeared in February 2001, the last will appear in February/March 2004. Abstracts and full texts as PDF of all issues are available online on the IACM web site.

From 2004 on IACM membership fees for regular members who received the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics as part of their membership will be reduced from 75 to 60 US Dollars/Euros. Other people with advanced subscription to the Journal will receive refunds from Haworth Press. Dr. Russo and Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, Executive Director of the IACM, intend to expand the extent of the IACM-News, the letter sent out to IACM members four times a year. Some Journal content will now appear in the IACM-News.


News in brief

Science — Antitumour effects of CBD

Recently, several cannabinoids have been shown to possess antitumour properties. This new research shows that the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) also exerts antitumour effects in human glioma cells. Gliomas are very aggressive brain tumours. The addition of CBD to the glioma cells in a culture medium decreased cell viability and induced apoptosis (programmed cell death). CBD administered to mice significantly inhibited the growth of subcutaneously implanted human glioma cells. (Source: Massi P, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2003 [Electronic publication ahead of print])

UK — Cannabis inhaler

The former commercial arm of the United Kingdom Energy Authority has developed a cannabis inhaler. AEA Technology developed this system of cannabis delivery in expectation the legalisation of the drug for medicinal purposes. The company has filed a patent for an aerosol which would vaporise cannabis, allowing it to be inhaled. (Source: The Sunday Herald of 9 November 2003)

Canada — Home insurance

Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) confirmed it received a claim for medical cannabis stolen from the house of a Regina resident. The claim may be the first of its kind. "If you have home insurance and it's a medical supply, there would be coverage," said insurance spokesman Earl Cameron. (Source: Ottawa Citizen of 18 November 2003)

USA — Detroit

Detroit voters will consider a proposal in August 2004 to legalize use of marijuana for medical purposes. 7,779 of the signatures submitted by the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care were validated, more than required. In 2001, the group gathered more than enough valid signatures, but the Detroit law department challenged the petition and kept the measure off the ballot. "The law department has raised no objections this time," coalition founder Tim Beck said. (Source: Associated Press of 21 November 2003)

Italy — Tougher drugs laws

On 13 November the government has approved a proposal making it an offence to possess and use even the smallest quantities of mild narcotics. People caught with modest amounts of cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and other drugs will be subject to penalties such as deprivation of their driving licences. The proposal must still be passed by parliament, which seems likely. (Source: The Financial Times of 15 November 2003)

UK — Less tough cannabis laws

The British House of Lords voted 63 to 37 to downgrade cannabis from a Class B to a Class C scheduled drug. The vote was the final hurdle of the government's reclassification proposal. Cannabis will be officially downgraded to a Class C "non-arrestable" soft drug on 29 January 2004. After reclassification, most offences of cannabis possession by adults will result in a police warning and confiscation of the drug.