CORPORATE CANNABIS

Discussion in 'Medical Marijuana' started by Alfa, Jan 27, 2005.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    CORPORATE CANNABIS

    Will a New Marijuana Mist Become the Aspirin of the Twenty-First Century?

    Philippe Lucas is apologizing for the quality of his cannabis. He is
    director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, which dispenses
    medicinal marijuana from behind an old storefront in Victoria. "This used
    to be a school of Chinese medicine," he says. "Can you feel the healing
    vibe?" Not at first. Apart from a comfy, well-worn couch in the waiting
    area, and a batik with yin-yang dolphins that you brush aside to enter the
    dispensing office, the place feels like a regular medical clinic. It
    reflects Lucas's personality: lean, clean-cut, and intense - there's
    nothing of the spacey stoner about him. If there's a "healing vibe," it
    emanates from the staff: the receptionist dressed in a fuzzy old sweater
    welcomes clients with "Hello, beautiful!" and "Can you use a hug?" Then she
    hugs.

    In the dispensing office the cannabis is kept under lock and key. Today's
    strains for sale -- among them Sweet Tooth, Jack's Mix, and Other God --
    according to a list handwritten in felt pen on a whiteboard-are grown
    primarily for recreational use, not medical. As he shows off a sample,
    Lucas apologizes again, because normally the Society grows and tests for
    purity the organic pot it supplies to its 400 members. But a recent rcmp
    bust destroyed their growing facility, forcing them onto the black market.
    There's no shortage for patients in need- in B.C. alone, the rcmp estimates
    15,000 grow-ops contribute to a harvest that nationally is worth about $7
    billion. The problem is that illegal growers don't hand out guarantees.

    While Lucas struggles in the grey zone of legality to get better pot back
    on the menu, his patients could soon have an alternative: one that does not
    involve police raids and substandard cannabis. German pharmaceutical giant
    Bayer AG, and Cannasat Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Toronto, a firm backed by a
    number of prominent Canadian businessmen, including Citytv co-founder Moses
    Znaimer and Joseph Mimran, the former head of Club Monaco, want to start
    selling cannabis-based medicine. Their goal: produce medically approved
    devices, such as inhalers and sprays, that will deliver the healing powers
    of marijuana without the poisonous smoke and tar - or the threat of arrest
    that comes along with distributing it illegally.

    In Canada alone there are nearly 50,000 people with multiple sclerosis
    (MS), many of whom could use such a device, and some estimates suggest
    another 400,000 Canadians could benefit from medical marijuana. At the
    moment, only 753 use cannabis legally.

    And Alan Young, Cannasat's legal adviser, a loquacious Osgoode Hall law
    professor who has fought a decades-long battle to liberalize marijuana
    laws, says because cannabis-based drugs have the potential to help people
    in a number of critical areas yet to be discovered, it could become one of
    the biggest pharmaceutical sectors ever developed. "There is going to be a
    revolution in the next decade in treatment options," says Young, his voice
    rising to emphasize the point. "People are sick and tired of synthetic
    products that are constantly being pulled off the market for undisclosed
    side effects. The time is right for herbal products."

    Bayer AG has already paid $60 million for the European rights and $14
    million for the Canadian rights to market Sativex, a cannabis-based
    medicine developed in Britain by GW Pharmaceuticals. Health Canada has been
    asked to approve Sativex, a whole-plant cannabis extract, delivered in a
    sublingual spray, and a decision could come this year. It cost GW $100
    million to develop Sativex, and while Cannasat vice-president Andrew
    Williams acknowledges the lead Bayer and GW have in the emerging sector, he
    believes the market will be large enough to support a number of companies.
    Cannasat is now putting together investors and a scientific team, which
    Williams says could lead to the creation of a suite of cannabis-based drugs
    over the next six to ten years.

    Inhalers and sprays that provide the benefits of medical marijuana, but
    don't necessarily get you stoned, offer another advantage. Between 1999 and
    2001, Ottawa gradually established the Medical Marihuana Access
    Regulations, and awarded Prairie Plant Systems of Saskatoon the right to
    produce and distribute cannabis to patients with authorization from their
    doctors. But many doctors are still reluctant to tell their patients to
    smoke medical marijuana because they believe inhaling it is harmful. Now
    many people advocating on behalf of patients fear that once the new
    cannabis-based medicines are on the market, Ottawa will favour them over
    medical marijuana. "There is legitimate fear that if GW gets approval,"
    says Lucas, "Health Canada is going to say that's all we need to meet our
    obligations, we're shutting down the medical-marijuana program."

    The Holy Grail for corporations trying to turn pot into a legitimate
    medicine is the vast U.S. market, which is ruled over by politicians who
    still see marijuana as an unspeakable menace. Euphoria masquerading as a
    medicine simply won't fly in the U.S. But GW may have found a solution. It
    has developed a tamper-proof dispensing system for the delivery of
    methadone that critics say could also be used for cannabis-based medicine.
    It looks like a cross between an asthma inhaler and a cellphone. The doctor
    keys in your allowable dose, and any attempt to spray a little more cuts
    you off cold turkey. Corporations see it as a way to profits; smokers call
    it a Big Brotherish apparatus designed to appease America's anti-pot
    paranoia - what they call "euphoriphobia." One such critic is Hilary Black,
    founder of the B.C. Compassion Club Society in Vancouver, who recently
    joined Cannasat. "The fact is,any pharmaceutical company using prohibition
    as a tool to market a product - that's wrong," says Black. "I have major
    ethical concerns with that."

    In the mid-1990s, faced with mounting anecdotal evidence of marijuana's
    therapeutic value, the British government began funding scientific research
    into cannabinoids, the sixty constituent chemicals unique to the plant. Dr.
    Geoffrey Guy, chairman of the biotechnology company Ethical Holdings, made
    a case that doing pure research for its own sake was not enough. Guy wanted
    to grow cannabis and study it with a clear-cut goal: to produce a
    patentable, marketable, profitable prescription medicine.

    To his surprise, Guy found the U.K. government highly receptive. In 1997,
    he formed GW Pharmaceuticals, where he now serves as executive director,
    and was granted permission to experiment with massive amounts of cannabis,
    eventually growing sixty tons a year in greenhouses in a secret location in
    the British countryside. In 2003, GW submitted the Sativex spray for
    regulatory approval in the U.K., to be used specifically for the relief of
    pain and muscle spasticity associated with MS.

    The Vancouver Island Compassion Society also produces a cannabis spray,
    albeit a much simpler version. Unlike Sativex, which is a patented
    medicine, the Society's spray is a tincture of cannabis administered via a
    vapourizer called Cannamist. Last May, Lucas received a foretaste of
    possible legal battles to come with GW, Bayer AG, and its subsidiary Bayer
    Canada, when he described Cannamist at a medical marijuana conference held
    by a group called Patients Out of Time, at the University of Virginia.
    Geoffrey Guy happened to be in the audience, and afterward approached Lucas
    and asked him if he'd had a chance to look at the any of the many patent
    applications GW has for Sativex. "He said it with a twinkle in his eye,"
    recalls Lucas, "but with firmness in his voice."

    There is no question that GW plans to enforce its patents on Sativex, which
    is a precisely dosed medicine. Warns Guy: "To protect our extensive
    investment, we have sought to identify and patent certain inventions
    throughout the growing, extraction and manufacturing process. My comments
    to Mr. Lucas were made as a friendly and, hopefully, helpful gesture as I
    did not wish him to invest a great amount of effort into obtaining approval
    for a product as a prescription medicine only to find that he did not have
    the freedom to operate in the first place."

    Guy's warning was reiterated shortly after I arrived in England to
    interview him, when Mark Rogerson, GW's grey-templed, elegantly dressed,
    public-relations man, met me at the Oxford train station. "Once it's
    approved and Sativex becomes a medicine under the law, there needs to be a
    minor change in legislation so it can be prescribed," he said, as he
    steered his Hyundai (his Audi was in the shop) into near-gridlock. "The
    Home Office has already said they will do that, and then patients will be
    taking a legal medicine. But if you are an MS sufferer, it would still be
    illegal for you to grow cannabis at the bottom of the garden to treat your
    symptoms. Our medicine will be legal, but anything else will not be."

    We drove to a postmodern, science-oriented industrial park near Oxford,
    where GW operates a clinic to monitor patients taking part in medical
    trials. I was introduced to Gillian, a whispery little old lady with MS who
    has participated in a number of short-term trials and who is now using
    Sativex as part of a long-term study. She has suffered from intense and
    painful muscle spasms for thirty-four years. "I never slept through the
    night, I would wake up every fifteen minutes, and it made the night seem
    like a few years," she says. "I had my first lot of cannabis, and I slept
    right through. That really seemed like the most wonderful thing that ever
    happened."

    Gillian shows me her little brown spray bottle of Sativex. "Do you get
    intoxicated? " I ask. "No," she replied. "I keep my dosage low so I don't.
    And I don't see why anybody should want to get intoxicated." Then she adds,
    "Intoxication isn't necessarily bad. If you fall in love, that's
    intoxication. But that's a chosen one."

    According to GW, 95 percent of the patients in clinical trials are like
    Gillian. They want the medicine to work, but they don't want the high. And
    GW claims it has figured out a way to deliver cannabis in a spray in doses
    that are much lower than those needed for the desired highs of recreational
    use, but which are still medically effective. GW scientists are also doing
    research on specific strains of marijuana to develop a whole slate of
    medicines, including treatments for neuropathic pain involved in cancer,
    spinal-cord injuries and rheumatoid arthritis ; as well, there are
    indications that even psychological disorders such as schizophrenia could
    some day be treated with marijuana.

    The active ingredients in Sativex are primarily two cannabinoids, thc, or
    delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol - the psychotropic ingredient appreciated by
    stoners around the world - and cbd, or cannabidiol, although all 400
    constituent chemicals of the plant are present. In other words, Sativex is
    not a conventional pharmaceutical, which is usually a single molecule
    synthesized in a laboratory. It's a whole plant extract, a distillate of
    the best of the flowering female buds from those sixty tons of plants.

    Dr. Philip Robson was senior lecturer in psychology at Oxford University
    before becoming clinical director of GW four years ago. If you were casting
    a tennis coach for a soap opera he would be your man: athletic and
    welcoming. "The bottom line is," he says in his office upstairs from the
    clinic, sitting beneath framed close-up photos of richly resinous marijuana
    buds, "if you take enough Sativex you will experience exactly the same
    effect you would if you were smoking a joint. But the delivery system is so
    different, the spike in the blood is so different - if you smoke a spliff
    you get this huge spike, and your plasma level of thc goes up to, say, 150
    or 200 nanograms, which is quite a lot, whereas with Sativex we're
    operating at a level more like 4, 5, 6 nanograms. So people do avoid the high."

    Using marijuana is still a social activity for many, and they will no doubt
    continue to grow their own rather than take it as a medicine. On the way to
    visit GW, I took a detour to a small town near the Scottish border to visit
    an illegal charity called thc4ms. The organization pretty much amounts to a
    shaggy-haired, amiable married couple named Mark and Lezley, who mix
    cannabis into chocolate bars, wrap them in foil, and ship them by mail to
    MS sufferers.

    Lezley was diagnosed with a severe form of MS in 1984 after a stroke-like
    attack left half her body paralyzed. She was told that within five years
    she could expect to be in a wheelchair and incontinent. Then she met Mark,
    a rec-reational cannabis user. Today she smokes throughout the day, is
    mobile, active, and in control of her bowels. She's not cured: occasionally
    she will still have a spasm and drop a dish. "No MS household has a full
    set of crockery," says Mark.

    Lezley decided to go public as a medical-marijuana activist after a nasty
    incident with a neighbour whose hunting dog had killed her cat. "I'm going
    to kill the dog," she told him.

    "And I'll have you for smoking that pot," he shot back.

    Soon after the altercation, she was watching Kilroy, the British television
    equivalent of Oprah. At the end of the show they asked anyone who smoked
    cannabis medicinally to contact them. "I rang up," she recalls, "and at the
    time Mark had quite the -"

    "I had a good job, didn't I ? " says Mark, interrupting.

    "He was management, in charge of a bakery," she continues. "And when I said
    to him what I was going to do, he said, 'Uh-oh, I'm gonna lose me job.' "

    "And I did," he answers ruefully.

    Later, Mark mixes up a batch of chocolate and cannabis at what they
    jokingly call their "lab" in the kitchen of a sympathizer's house in a
    nearby town. "We've come up with a new slogan for our literature: From
    Nature, Out Of Necessity." Adds Lezley, "We had a snappier one: 'Doing
    today for free what GW dreams of making millions from tomorrow.' "

    Still, for everyone who wants to smoke their own, there are many more,
    believes Mark, who would prefer the prescription version. "I can't wait
    until GW gets its licence," he says. "I'll chuck all this kit and get my
    life back." Lezley immediately scolds him. "Those who want to press the
    button, take one spray, great. Those who want to use it herbally should be
    able to use it herbally. Freedom of choice."

    Lezley describes herself as "a good girl. I never had a detention in
    school." Before using cannabis from necessity, she thought pot was for
    "druggies." Now, after twenty years of using it for pain management, she
    insists, "I'm still good," although she has changed in other ways. Once a
    stylish young hairdresser with "dyed-blond hair and high heels," she has
    become an almost stereotypical countercultural New Age earth mother who is
    into crystals, holistic remedies, and the legalization of marijuana for all
    purposes, not just medical. "Why are people so afraid of it? " she asks.
    "It opens your mind to a lot of things."

    Later, Rogerson packed me back into the Hyundai and we travelled down to
    Salisbury to meet Guy. To get there Rogerson drove along the edge of a
    military firing range and parked outside the gates before registering at a
    small outbuilding. (My Canadian passport seemed to make me suspect, and
    slowed the process.) Then we walked through the checkpoint to a small
    building just inside the fence.

    Guy is fifty, argumentative, short in stature and built like a fire
    hydrant. He shows little patience for marijuana activists who, he says,
    have "from time to time either latched onto, used, fed off of, or even
    hijacked the debate" on the therapeutic value of cannabis. Nor does he have
    time for those tinkering with cannabis as herbal medicine. "This is
    something that doesn't seem to be understood in North America," he says.
    "There is a massive, massive difference in being able to grow a plant, and
    being able to develop an approved medicine that can be prescribed by a
    doctor. There's a lot of people who will have a long discussion about what
    a medicine is, but I am a pharmaceutical physician, and my definition of a
    pharmaceutical [product] is a 'worthwhile medicine that makes money.' "

    Ironically, some of the early research Guy used in developing Sativex came
    from America's National Institute on Drug Abuse. "The U.S. government has
    funded substantial research over the last twenty-five years," says Guy.
    "But it was all designed to prove that cannabinoids were the most terrible
    things on earth." He says it reminds him of the Soviet Union in the 1980s,
    the way the goals of many American studies - cannabis is bad - are at odds
    with the actual research presented. They've come up with remarkably little
    to show that the effects of the drug are adverse or dangerous, he asserts.
    "Had they spent twenty-five years looking at ibuprofen, they could have
    come up with a far worse profile."

    By some estimates, 50 percent of prescribed medicines in the nineteenth
    century- designed to alleviate everything from migraines and menstrual
    cramps to the pain of childbirth - contained cannabis. Time will tell
    whether Bayer has latched on to the new Aspirin-whether Sativex will become
    the "take two and call me in the morning" drug of the twenty-first century.

    Major research breakthroughs came in 1988, with the discovery of a
    cannabinoid receptor in the brain, and in 1992, when it was confirmed that
    humans, like all animals, possess endogenous cannabinoids in their bodies,
    in the same way that endorphins are endogenous opiates. Cannabinoids, Guy
    says, are "really one of the prime controllers of the body's systems." He
    com-pares the action of cannabis to the fine-tuning knob of a radio. Unlike
    modern synthetic chemical medicines, cannabinoids don't just show a simple
    effect in one direction, but can modulate up or down on the health dial,
    returning the body's systems to equilibrium. "We have combinations of
    receptors," he says, "that some of the materials in cannabis seem to be
    tailor-made for."

    In fact, Guy believes there is evidence of an evolutionary link between
    cannabis and Homo sapiens. He argues that from the time plants and animals
    diverged in the primordial soup, they have remained in a co-evolutionary
    dance. Particularly noteworthy are the receptors humans have retained for
    chemicals found in opium and cannabis. He suggests that cannabinoid
    receptors, lying dormant for millennia, may have been reactivated when
    humans rediscovered cannabis 50,000 years ago, a time known as "the great
    leap forward," when our ancestors developed art, language, and new tools
    like boats, rope, and fishhooks.

    Guy's rivals at Cannasat Pharmaceuticals in Toronto hope to build on the
    growing bank of scientific knowledge as to how cannabis interacts with
    those receptors. While Cannasat is trail-ing GW in the race to bring the
    first cannabis-based pharmaceutical to market, Cannasat's Williams says
    operating in Canada gives his firm an advantage. Potentially, Cannasat
    could tap into Prairie Plants' expertise and research-grade product,
    whereas GW had to build and operate their own growing facility. "Prairie
    Plant is almost there," he says, "and that will knock two years off the
    five-year head start that GW has."

    Realistically, GW's head start is probably more like seven years, and they
    began with the most genetically pure cannabis in the world, the breeding
    stock of a Dutch firm called Hortapharm, whereas Prairie Plant was obliged
    by Health Canada to grow its plants from seeds confiscated by the rcmp.

    Despite the fact that many MS sufferers might want to try Sativex,
    Cannasat's legal adviser, Alan Young, thinks Health Canada should delay
    approving the drug. He says GW has failed to look at enough strains of
    marijuana to guarantee that its product will substantially improve the
    lives of MS suffers. "The closer I looked at GW, the more distressed I was
    by the product," he says. "And all my fears are substantiated by the fact
    that GW has not received approval from its own government. So I've taken
    the position, 'Don't come to Canada until you get your business in order in
    the U.K.' "

    Currently, patients trying to acquire medical marijuana approved by Health
    Canada find the process complex and bureaucratic. Approved applicants are
    allowed to either grow their own marijuana, have someone grow it for them
    in a strict one-to-one relationship, or buy their cannabis from the
    government. The strict regulations (patients must submit a series of
    applications and one or more medical declarations, as well as a photograph
    of themselves signed by their doctor) make cannabis far more difficult to
    obtain than even such sinister prescription drugs as Oxycontin, the
    morphine substitute better known as Hillbilly Heroin.

    "People are contacting me daily from all parts of Canada, wanting to know
    how and where to purchase medical cannabis," says Barb St. Jean, editor of
    Cannabis Health Magazine, based in Grand Forks, B.C. "Their doctors tell
    them they will not sign the government approval forms." Currently the
    Canadian Medical Association (cma) and its insurer, the Canadian Medical
    Protective Association, counsel members not to sign. "But some doctors,"
    says St. Jean, "tell their patients, 'Just go out and buy it if you want
    it.' This is insane."

    The confusion could end if Bayer is allowed to distribute Sativex in
    Canada, where it will be strictly labelled for the treatment of MS only.
    But given compelling evidence of its efficacy in treating such conditions
    as arthritic pain and the nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy, it's
    likely that the market (and profits) will expand as "off-label prescribing"
    accelerates.

    It's easy to foresee a scenario like this one: a person with chronic pain
    asks a doctor to sign the government paperwork allowing her to grow her own
    cannabis, or get it shipped in a packet from Flin Flon, already ground up
    like oregano. The doctor says, "I'm uncomfortable with that, because in
    fact the cma have advised me not to sign. However, I can write you a
    prescription for Sativex. It's for MS but it seems to work wonders for
    other chronic pain." And in one quick step, one more patient will be using
    Sativex for a condition that is completely unrelated to the MS that the
    drug was originally designed and licenced to treat.

    Eventually Sativex could be introduced into the lucrative U.S. market. But
    with the war on illegal drugs going on, with much of it directed by the
    world's biggest consumer of illegal drugs, America, any substance that gets
    you giddy is guilty until proven innocent. GW and Bayer may be able to
    skirt that issue by emphasizing the fact that Sativex is taken in a dose so
    low that there's no high associated with it.

    As Lucas points out, many patients at the Compassion Society in Victoria
    use the herb for chronic pain, and report that it doesn't trigger the
    euphoric high that a healthy person might experience using the same amounts
    of cannabis. Lucas himself, who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood
    at the age of twelve and now uses cannabis for pain management and appetite
    enhancement, acknowledges that he does experience some euphoric effects.
    Then he mentions an ad he saw for a pharmaceutical on television the other
    night. "One of the long list of possible side effects was anal leaking," he
    says. "I'll take euphoria over anal leaking any day."

    Perhaps the main selling point of Sativex, however, is that you don't have
    to smoke it to get the benefits. GW's Guy points out that Health Canada's
    Flin Flon operation distributes "herbal cannabis of only reasonably
    understood quality," which they dispense in the full knowledge that
    patients will smoke it, "therefore exposing them to an enormous raft of
    carcinogens." Guy then launches into a detailed rant about the sheer
    wastefulness of smoking. "We don't burn Sativex," he sneers. "Ninety-five
    percent of all the material of the joint is used to produce a heat source!
    Well, in this modern day and age we've got electricity and things like that
    if we want a heat source! We don't need to burn the actual drug to create a
    heat source."

    Smoking, however, is exactly what many medical users want to do. And
    currently, compassion clubs, like Lucas's Vancouver Island Compassion
    Society in Victoria, are by far the leading providers of medical marijuana.
    Of the 750-plus patients now registered with Health Canada, only
    eighty-three have opted to use Flin Flon's finest. By contrast, Vancouver's
    B.C. Compassion Club Society, a non-profit society dedicated to supplying
    cannabis, has 3,000 members. Nearly a dozen such clubs across the country
    serve more than 8,000. Roughly 95 percent of these patients smoke their
    cannabis.

    Health Canada's current attitude toward compassion clubs is that they are
    "illegal" and "a concern for the police and the justice system," says a
    Health Canada spokesperson. Ottawa is obligated by international treaties
    to "prevent diversion," meaning they worry compassion clubs could too
    easily become a front for illegal pot sales.

    The problem with Health Canada, says Lynne Belle-Isle of the Canadian aids
    Society, who also sits on Health Canada's Stakeholders' Advisory Committee
    on Medical Marihuana, "is that they don't seem to know a lot about
    cannabis, and they're not in touch with the community of patients. We want
    the compassion clubs to be at the table, and there's a huge resistance on
    the part of Health Canada to that. Personally, I would prefer a person
    walking into a compassion club and getting their cannabis than getting it
    from Joe with a pager on the corner of the street."

    Compassion clubs are the only organizations in Canada that have a
    ready-made client base for research pur-poses. Ottawa set aside $7.5
    million for research in 1999, but only two studies were ever commissioned,
    although a third may be announced soon. One has been cancelled; the other,
    at McGill University's Pain Centre, is ongoing, and somehow Health Canada
    has spent $2 million of that original $7.5 million. Cannasat's Hilary Black
    believes Ottawa is delaying research in the face of U.S. pressure and
    potential pharmaceutical options on the horizon. "Health Canada has been
    dragging their heels just long enough for GW to hit the market," she says.
    "And after that point they could close down the Flin Flon operation."

    When large foreign companies such as the drug manufacturer GW and its
    distributor Bayer arrive on the local medical marijuana scene, it's easy to
    see the conflict of interests as a case of hippies vs. suits, of the
    hippies being in the right, but inevitably losing to Big Bad Pharma. But
    this exasperates Guy. "Those people who you would have thought would be our
    biggest supporters are our most vociferous critics," he says. "We are
    offering virtually bottled cannabis, cannabis extract for patients who can
    get it from their doctor, reimbursed by the National Health Service or its
    equivalent, but here we are, the unacceptable face of pharmaceuticalization
    and profiteering."

    In Victoria, Philippe Lucas concedes that the big drug companies will
    probably succeed. Ultimately, he says, the drug does deserve to be approved
    for ethical reasons: many of the MS sufferers in Canada are too timid or
    too ill to face the currently too-daunting task of arranging cannabis
    medicines for themselves. The arrival of Sativex will also help meet the
    needs of rural and small-town patients who live outside the reach of
    compassion clubs.

    As for GW, let's leave the last word to Barb St. Jean of Cannabis Health.
    "They have dedicated experts, and hats off to them-they've done a great
    job," she says. "But I am perplexed at our own government's refusal to
    allow its own citizens to get in the game with alternatives."
     
  2. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    GW'S CANNABIS-BASED SPRAY A STEP CLOSER

    GW Pharmaceuticals yester-day reported more positive clinical trial data on
    its cannabis-based medicine Sativex and said it expected a UK regulatory
    hearing on the drug this summer.

    GW has already reported positive clinical trial data showing that Sativex,
    an under-the-tongue spray, helps to control the symptoms of multiple
    sclerosis and neuropathic pain.

    Yesterday, the company produced fresh data on Sativex showing positive
    results with patients suffering from severe cancer pain. The trials were
    Phase III, the last stage before a drug is approved for marketing, and
    showed that about 40 per cent of patients on Sativex saw a 30 per cent
    improvement in their pain levels.

    The company said the new data demonstrated the broad potential of the
    treatment, which has already received preliminary approval in Canada but is
    still caught up in the UK regulatory approval process.

    British approval - which would enable Sativex to be marketed across Europe
    - was originally expected in late 2003 but has taken longer than
    anticipated after the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulation Agency
    asked for further data on its safety and effectiveness. That delay has
    affected GW's share price, which has fallen from a high of 254p in
    mid-2003. Shares in GW yesterday rose 2.5 per cent to 120.5p.

    Geoffrey Guy, GW's executive chairman, said all the quality and safety
    issues related to Sativex had been dealt with, with one efficacy- related
    matter to be resolved at the Medicines Commission. He said the outcome of
    that hearing should be known in the summer. If it is successful, the
    treatment will be granted a product licence in the UK immediately. "It's
    simply a matter of time before we get the approval," Dr Guy said.

    The company, which has a marketing deal for Sativex with Bayer of Germany,
    is also preparing to apply for approval for an eventual launch of the
    treatment in the US.

    GW yesterday also reported its results for the year to September 30 2004,
    which showed pre-tax losses of AUKP15.7m and cash reserves of AUKP17.8m. It
    said it expected 2005 to be a turning point as it started to generate
    commercial revenues from product sales.
     
  3. kailey_elise

    kailey_elise Gold Member

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    Nov 3, 2004
    from Massachusetts, U.S.A.
    Is this stuff on the market yet? I know someone who would love to try it on their chronic pain, not even caring if it shows up in a drug screen...if it works, that is. ;)

    ~Kailey
     
  4. jkolt89

    jkolt89 Titanium Member

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    Wow! Great article. If they could combine an electronic cigarette and hemp oil (like the oil the use in the e-cigs) that would be awesome.
     
  5. shapeshifter

    shapeshifter Newbie

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    very informative article thank you! however my concern is (and we see this repeatedly) once corperate pharm. giants get their hands on something, they have a funny way of contaminating it's integral nature. i see the problem that the high aspect of cannabis is undesirable to many patients who use cannabis. and though this is important to cater to, corperations will tarnish cannabis' good name IMHO. i do support passionate-integral research from independant companies with direct connection to dispenseries or independant physicians who actually care about patient's well being and not the profits they achieve. especially in the US i see this new method being a problem. we all know most corperations worldwide have to somewhat abide by the US' systems, as they will most likely be the bigger contributor toward profits by way of the majority of consumers or private revenue investements.
     
  6. Brill

    Brill Silver Member

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    I've been reading lately about cancer and cannabis, because of a test that said I had a higher chance for developing cancer. My father developed this cancer, and he had the recommended operation, all of the negative side effects of the operation, and finally a relapse that metastisized and killed him. To say it was heartbreaking to see him so sick is not to say enough, but that is all I will say here. That was two years ago. In addition, he had all the opioid based pain medication that could be provided, and it was very sad to see how that altered his behavior-- he had hallucinations and delusional stories that went with them. A few years before that, my mother died, also of cancer. It was a ravenously fast growing lung cancer-- four months before she died of this cancer, she had a clear chest xray. They thought it was pneumonia when she went into the hospital.

    So I'm going to avoid the route that my dad took. Recently I've been doing some studying, about cancer, especially the tumor-type of cancer. I've been able to learn a lot of the jargon, but I will avoid it.

    At this point, they know what causes tumors to grow out of control. The problem with cancer is that the cells won't die. Now, cancer cells are just cells that are mutated, their damaged DNA causes them to be missing parts, and so the internal systems are only partly there. Research has gotten into the most minute inner workings, to see how normal cells differ.

    What makes them cancer is that they keep making copies of themselves and not dying.

    Cells have receptors that go through the membrane. These receptors are a lot like threads of protein that go in and out of the cell membrane in a tiny spot, like they've been stitched into the membrane wall. When they encounter a certain molecule that they react with, that chemical can be admitted into the cell, or portions of it, and this causes a chemical chain reaction inside the cell that in turn causes a particular type of function to occur in the cell, called a "signalling pathway". Then, what is left of the molecule that was admitted, if anything, gets pushed back out through another port.

    I'm not talking about neurons, also, I'm talking about various kinds of cells.

    When a cancerous cell is formed because it's DNA is damaged, it also has receptors. But because it's inside wiring is missing components, when molecules are admitted into the cell, they aren't processed the same way. This is important, because the parts of the normal cell when they are functioning correctly also cause the cell to be "used up", and eventually die.

    The receptor of interest is GPR55. The other thing of interest is the substance it "receives", called LPI (it has a giant name but if you google these two things you will find it). It seems like GPR55 and LPI are made specifically for one another.

    GPR55 has been shown to play a part in cell proliferation, and cell death (apoptosis). LPI is basically the molecule that says "ok, time to proliferate, and also to die a little". Also, that proliferation should also cause the cell "health meter" to run down. When LPI sends it's proliferation message, it gets taken apart by the normal cell and is no longer LPI.

    But cancer cells don't take apart the LPI. They spit it back out, whole!!! So, they don't hear the "die a bit" part of the message, where the pieces of the LPI would cause them to burn out a bit. So, the LPI goes out "the window" and comes back again through the GPR55 door and says "ok, time to proliferate" in a loop. A deadly loop.

    It seems like this is why tumors grow so fast, and why they grow faster and faster, sometimes exponentially: because the LPI is not getting used up, more and more wonky cells that don't use it up proliferate, and less and less LPI is being burned up as it should.

    NOW, it is found that GPR55 is a sort of almost kinda cannabinoid receptor. It seems that cannabinoids, and cannabidiol (CBD) in particular, interact with GPR55. So when CBD interacts with the GPR55 of a cancer cell, it is one less opportunity for LPI to interact with it. And, because CBD is a different thing than LPI, it doesn't send the "time to proliferate" message. Instead, it seems to get it to hear the "hey, time to eat a bit of yourself, dude" message, and the cell uses itself up in a more normal fashion (autophagia). Moreover, maybe the cannabinoid even does the same "loop" thing that LPI does, so CBD tells it "eat yourself" over and over, instead of LPI telling it over and over to proliferate.

    An incredible amount of meticulous research has been done in order to make it this simple to explain, and I might be oversimplifying, but I think that's pretty close.

    What is horrible, what is awful, is all that stuff about competing government agencies is truly true. So, for one government arm, say NIH, to come out and say "cannabis has a well understood mechanism in it's interaction with the GPR55 receptor that allows it to surpress the growth of cancer cells and to induce apoptosis through autophagia" is to really make it difficult for other arms that say "cannabis has no medical value".

    But, at the same time, apparently NIH has patents for the use of cannabis to do just that. Add to that that cannabidiol is not anywhere near as psychoactive as THC, if at all, then it is a matter of coming up with a strain that produces a "blend" of cannabinoids that is more cannabidiol and less THC. And, it is the case that just such a strain is being bred (apparently in Israel).

    Now, the thing that is the thing, of course: there is a LOT of money at stake. There is a lot of change that would need to be introduced, all kinds of treatment modalities would need to be re-examined and the appropriate emphasis given to this new cannabis-based treatment. What if some relatively inexpensive weed-based medicine changed things to the point where a giant radiation-zapper machine was not needed any longer? Disruptive change is fine when it fundamentally impacts internet technology stuff... but for medicine, cancer treatments?

    What I'm saying here is true: given a medicine that would cause cancer cells to eat themselves up would treat all of the cancers that are tumor-type cancers that grow and grow. Breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer... tumor type cancers. Also, what is being described here is not cannabis "curing" cancer, it makes the cancer cell work more like a normal cell and die like a normal cell. Whatever causes cells to have crappy DNA and become cancerous is still there.