By Alfa · Jun 26, 2005 ·
  1. Alfa

    Local MS Sufferer Hoping New Drug Will Ease His Pain

    Darwin Wowk is counting on a new drug to ease the pain he experiences from multiple sclerosis.

    "I'm hoping this will be one of the greatest reprieves I've had in a long time," said the Portager, referring to the drug Sativex, a peppermint-flavoured mouth spray containing marijuana that gives MS sufferers another choice in treating pain.

    Sativex was approved by Health Canada about two months ago. Canada is the first country in the world in which the drug is available as a prescribed treatment for MS-related pain.

    Earlier this week, Bayer Health Care, the Canadian distributor of the drug which was developed in Great Britain, announced Sativex is available for prescription.

    Wowk, who was diagnosed with MS in 1987, is hoping to get his hands on the new drug as soon as possible.

    "I've been having pain related to MS for a long time," the 42 year old said.

    Wowk, who's a quadriplegic with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, said the pain is unbearable at times, causing him to miss meetings or functions he's planned to attend.

    "If I can get any type of pain relief, it would improve my quality of life," he said.

    News Sativex is now available in Canada was also welcomed by the Manitoba division of Multiple Sclerosis Society.

    "We're very pleased that there's another option for people to try,"

    said Gwenda Nemerofsky, the organization's communications manager.

    There are more than 3,000 Manitobans living with MS and up to 80 per cent experience some kind of pain, said Nemerofsky. "It's very uncomfortable to live with."

    Using Sativex is controversial because it contains marijuana, said Nemerofsky, but MS patients are using it to relieve pain, not for recreational purposes.

    MS Society hopes insurance companies will cover the cost of the drug considering each vial has a base price of $124.95.

    Each vial contains 51 sprays, with an average dose of five sprays per day, according to Bayer Health Care. Sativex is sprayed into the mouth from a dispenser programmed to deliver a pre-selected dosage.

    Local pharmacies, including Hill's East Drugs, are not stocking the drug at this time. But the pharmacies said if a patient requested Sativex with a doctor's prescription, they will try to order it.

    The drug is made of a whole marijuana plant extract including two components of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol.

    "The product was promising, so it was approved," said Jirina Vlk, spokeswoman for Health Canada, noting it was approved with conditions for those who suffer from severe pain, including multiple sclerosis patients who require additional pain relief.

    The federal government recently developed a medicinal marijuana program, which allows Canadians who meet certain criteria to possess the drug.

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