By Alfa · Feb 15, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    Device Has Unlikely Future In USA

    Plans to make marijuana available by prescription to British multiple
    sclerosis sufferers also promise to shake up the debate in the USA
    over legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    Sativex, an inhaler that dispenses medical marijuana in mist form, is
    in the final stages of testing by the United Kingdom's Department of
    Health, a spokeswoman said.

    Once approved, Sativex's developer, GW Pharmaceuticals, a British
    company, hopes to sell medical pot in western Europe and the
    Commonwealth countries, including Canada. The U.S. market is a
    "long-term objective," company spokesman Mark Rogerson says.

    Sativex would be the first prescription drug that uses real marijuana
    extract and not a synthesized form. The product offers hope of pain
    relief to an estimated 110,000 MS sufferers in the United Kingdom.

    Some say that by licensing the drug, the British government has
    confirmed its value in relieving pain. Others say that once
    government-approved marijuana is available, it will be more difficult
    to argue that disease sufferers should be permitted to grow or
    purchase pot for their own use.

    "The government's spin will be that there is a right way and a wrong
    way to pursue (medical marijuana), and that (Sativex) proves it," says
    Allen St. Pierre, director of the National Organization for the Reform
    of Marijuana Laws. The Washington, D.C.-based group favors relaxing
    criminal penalties for all pot users.

    Worldwide, an estimated 2.5 million people have multiple sclerosis,
    including 400,000 in the USA. It is a chronic disease that affects the
    central nervous system and can result in speech defects and loss of
    muscle coordination.

    The Sativex device uses vapor distilled from marijuana plants grown
    under government supervision in southern England.

    It has already proved successful in relieving the muscle and headache
    pain of a small number of test patients, according to trial results
    reviewed by the UK's Medicines and Health Care Products Regulatory

    The product is sprayed under the tongue and is believed to be
    especially effective because it is absorbed quickly and contains all
    of the marijuana plant's pain-relieving properties.

    Other marijuana-related pain killers, such as the anti-nausea drug
    Marinol, are synthetic versions of some but not all of the plant's
    pain-killing ingredients.

    In the USA, Marinol pills have been available by prescription since
    1985 for chemotherapy-related nausea and similar conditions.

    When used in small doses, Sativex does not produce the mild euphoria
    that has made pot a popular recreational drug, GW Pharmaceuticals
    spokesman Rogerson says. But he acknowledges that it could be
    "abused" by overuse.

    To be sold in the USA, the Sativex inhaler would have to be tested and
    approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

    But the device is likely to face opposition from the Bush
    administration's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    The administration argues that marijuana use is associated with a
    variety of health problems.

    Since 2002, it has opposed initiatives to decriminalize medical
    marijuana in 13 states. All but one initiative failed. Ten states have

    laws that ease or eliminate penalties for using medical marijuana.

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