SPAIN TO TEST CANNABIS AS AID FOR PATIENT

Discussion in 'Cannabis & Health' started by Alfa, Feb 7, 2005.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    SPAIN TO TEST CANNABIS AS AID FOR PATIENTS

    Spain's socialist government has given the go-ahead for the most
    wide-ranging trial of therapeutic cannabis ever conducted, putting the
    country at the forefront of drug policy.

    Four hospitals, 60 pharmacies and up to 1,500 patients in Catalunya will
    take part in a year-long pilot programme sponsored by the regional
    government to establish the drug's effectiveness in treating a range of
    conditions.

    'Experts agree cannabis has interesting therapeutic possibilities,' said
    Rafael Manzanera, Catalunya's director of health resources. 'We want to
    evaluate its efficacy across different groups of patients. That has never
    been done before.'

    Patients will be prescribed cannabis capsules for four conditions: multiple
    sclerosis (MS); the side effects of chemotherapy; lack of appetite among
    Aids sufferers; and pain not eased by existing therapies.

    The move follows decisions around the world to overcome anti-drug
    sentiments and carry out more studies into cannabis, many years after
    research first showed it could relieve pain. In the next few weeks Canada
    is expected to approve the use of Sativex, which delivers cannabis
    derivatives into the bloodstream via a mouth spray. It is the world's first
    prescription drug made from marijuana, and is manufactured by GW
    Pharmaceuticals.

    There is growing frustration in the UK among people with chronic pain, such
    as MS sufferers, that nothing similar has been allowed here. The Medicines
    and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has asked GW for a confirmatory
    study of the product, although it does not dispute its safety or efficacy.

    In most European countries, including Spain, cannabis remains illegal,
    although authorities often turn a blind eye to those using it for
    therapeutic purposes. The plan for a trial using a marijuana compound was
    initially blocked by Spain's conservative government but won support after
    Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's socialists came to power last March.

    Zapatero has set an unapologetically left-wing social agenda since taking
    office. He has angered Spain's conservative establishment with bold reforms
    on gay marriage, social housing and religious education, and his drugs
    policy is expected soon to include a programme of heroin prescription for
    long-term addicts.

    Therapeutic cannabis use is widespread in Spain, but users have to rely on
    informal networks for support and information about the drug. And with no
    controlled source, supplies can vary considerably in strength.

    'The majority of the people we spoke to said using cannabis had improved
    their quality of life,' said Rafael Borras, a committee member at the
    College of Pharmacists. 'But there was a real lack of information. So we
    proposed this pilot.'

    Montse Domenech, of the Association of Breast Cancer Patients in Barcelona,
    says her group gets three or four calls a day from women all over Spain
    looking for advice about cannabis. But while its use is widespread among
    her members, it remains frowned upon. 'We're older women and we have our
    hang-ups,' she said. 'When I started I had my oncologist's support but I
    didn't tell my husband.'

    She says most oncologists in Barcelona will give patients the go-ahead to
    try cannabis, even if they won't admit it publicly. 'We might as well
    provide support and control, since people are going to take it anyway.'

    British patients could be included in the Spanish programme if they
    registered at one of the participating hospitals, but they wouldn't receive
    NHS funding.

    'The prescription will be tightly controlled,' said Manzanera. 'But if
    patients from outside Spain meet our criteria, they will be included.'