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    You are here : Home » MS Research News » Drugs » Cannabis And Cannabinoid Research

    Cannabis And Cannabinoid Research

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    Study: Cannabis alleviates muscle pain in MS

    CannabisWhere numerous other treatments have failed to safely relieve stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis, cannabis extract proved twice as effective as a placebo. It also helped with pain, spasms, and sleep.

    PROBLEM: Muscle stiffness, often painful, affects up to 90 percent of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), yet no reliable treatment has been found. Drugs that have undergone clinical trials have been proven to be either ineffective or, in the case of baclofen, to further weaken those with the disease. This phase-III trial considers the clinical effectiveness of cannabis, already turned to as an alternative treatment by patients.

    METHODOLOGY: At different sites across the UK, adult MS patients were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of treatment: 144 received cannabis extract in the form of a pill, while 135 others were treated with a placebo. A rating scale was used to evaluate improvements in muscle stiffness, its associated pain, muscle spasms, and sleep quality.

    RESULTS: Just under 30 percent of subjects treated with cannabis extract experienced relief from muscle stiffness, making their success rate almost double that of the placebo group. Pain, spasms, and sleep quality were also improved in the treatment group to about the same extent. At the end of the twelve weeks only one in four patients were taking the maximum daily dose of 25 mg of cannabis. None of the side effects experienced by those in the treatment group were particularly severe. Most occurred during the first two weeks of the trial (when they were allowed to increase their dosage) and were therefore probably attributable to the rapid dose escalation.

    CONCLUSION: Cannabis extract was confirmed as a viable treatment option, and an effective form of pain relief, for those experiencing muscle problems associated with MS.

    Full study, "Multiple Sclerosis and Extract of Cannabis: results of the MUSEC trial"

    Source: The Atlantic COPYRIGHT © 2012 BY THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY GROUP (09/10/12)

    Cannabis extracts mitigate muscle stiffness in Multiple Sclerosis patients

    Cannabis The oral administration of cannabis extracts significantly reduces muscle stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to just published clinical trial data published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

    Investigators at the University of Plymouth, Clinical Neurology Research Group, in the United Kingdom assessed the use of cannabinoids versus placebo in 279 subjects with MS over a twelve-week period. Cannabis extracts in the study contained standardized doses of THC and cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive constituent in cannabis, contained in a soft, gelatin capsule.

    Investigators reported that oral cannabis extracts were “superior” over placebo in the treatment of MS-associated muscle stiffness and pain.

    Authors concluded: “Treatment with standardised oral extract of cannabis sativa relieved muscle stiffness. The proportion of participants experiencing relief was almost twice as large in the cannabis extract group as in the placebo group. … Effective pain relief is also achieved by cannabis extracts, especially in patients with a high baseline pain score. Our findings suggest that standardised cannabis extracts can be clinically useful in treating the highly complex phenomenon of spasticity in MS.”

    In May, clinical trial data published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association reported that cannabis inhalation significantly mitigates spasticity and pain in patients with treatment-resistant multiple sclerosis.

    Separate clinical trials assessing the administration of oral cannabis extracts on patients with MS have indicated that cannabinoids can alleviate symptoms of the disease long-term and may also act in ways to mitigate MS progression. Sativex, an oral spray containing plant cannabis extracts, is presently legal by prescription to treat MS-related symptoms in over a dozen countries, including Canada, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Spain. Nonetheless, the National MS Society of the United States shares little enthusiasm for cannabis as a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis, stating, “Studies completed thus far have not provided convincing evidence that marijuana or its derivatives provide substantiated benefits for symptoms of MS.”

    Full text of the study, “Multiple Sclerosis and Extract of Cannabis: results of the MUSEC trial,” appears in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

    Source: The Weed (25/07/12)

    Cannabis fails to slow progress of Multiple Sclerosis

    CannabisCannabis capsules failed to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis in a large British study, dealing a blow to hopes that it could provide long-term benefits.

    Despite promising signs in earlier, shorter studies, researchers found patients who took capsules containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a key active ingredient in cannabis, fared no better than those given a placebo.

    The finding is a disappointment for researchers who thought cannabis might provide a viable therapy in the disease's secondary progressive stage, when patients have few treatment options.

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients were assessed in the trial known as CUPID (cannabinoid use in progressive inflammatory brain disease) on both a disability scale administered by neurologists and another based on their own reporting.

    "Overall the study found no evidence to support an effect of THC on MS progression in either of the main outcomes," write researchers led by John Zajicek of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Plymouth University.

    Results from the study, which was funded by Britain's Medical Research Council, will be presented at the Association of British Neurologists' annual meeting in Brighton this week.

    Cannabis contains more than 60 different cannabinoids, of which THC is thought to be the most active, and many MS patients have long said the drug helps them cope with the effects of the disease.

    Questions still remain
    Professor David Nutt, of Imperial College London, who was not involved in the latest research, says the study's failure did not mean cannabis had no role in helping MS patients.

    "It would be wrong to interpret these preliminary findings to mean that cannabis does not achieve its licensed use. Cannabis is not licensed for limiting disease progression, it is licensed for dealing with spasticity and pain," he says.

    Zajicek's study did find some evidence to suggest a beneficial effect in less disabled patients but because this was seen in only a small group of people it was unclear how strong the effect was.

    The overall study population also experienced slower disease progression than had been expected, making it more challenging to detect any treatment effect, the research team adds.

    MS is a disease in which immune system cells destroy the myelin sheath that protects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

    The most common type is relapsing-remitting MS, affecting around 85 per cent of patients at the time of diagnosis. Several drugs are available to treat this stage of the disease, including injections of beta-interferons and a new pill called Gilenya.

    Secondary progressive MS comes later and involves a sustained build up of disability.

    Source: ABC Science © 2012 ABC (29/05/12)

    Cannabis relieves some Multiple Sclerosis symptoms - study

    CannabisSmoking marijuana can relieve muscle tightness, spasticity (contractions) and pain often experienced by those with multiple sclerosis, says research out of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

    The findings, just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, included a controlled trial with 30 participants to understand whether inhaled cannabis would help complicated cases where existing pharmaceuticals are ineffective or trigger adverse side effects.

    MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal cord.

    The disease attacks the myelin, the protective covering wrapped around the nerves of the central nervous system, and — among other symptoms — can cause loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue, double vision and paralysis.

    The average age of the research participants was 50 years with 63 per cent of the study population female.

    More than half the participants needed walking aids and 20 per cent used wheelchairs.

    Rather than rely on self-reporting by patients regarding their muscle spasticity — a subjective measure — health professionals rated each patient’s joints on the modified Ashworth scale, a common objective tool to evaluate intensity of muscle tone.

    The researchers found that the individuals in the group that smoked cannabis experienced an almost one-third decrease on the Ashworth scale — 2.74 points from a baseline score of 9.3 — meaning spasticity improved, compared to the placebo group.

    As well, pain scores decreased by about 50 per cent.

    “We saw a beneficial effect of smoked cannabis on treatment-resistant spasticity and pain associated with multiple sclerosis among our participants,” says Dr. Jody Corey-Bloom of the university’s department of neuroscience.

    Researchers found that, although generally well-tolerated, the cannabis had the expected short-term but acute cognitive effects.

    Corey-Bloom says larger, long-term studies are needed to confirm findings and determine whether lower doses can result in beneficial effects with less cognitive impact.

    The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada says Canadians have one of the highest rates of the disease in the world. The disease is the most common neurological diseases affecting young adults in this country and every day three more people in Canada are diagnosed with MS.

    Source: Copyright 2001-2012, Free Daily News Group Inc (15/05/12)

    Cannabis memory effects examined

    CannabisScientists believe they are closer to understanding how taking cannabis disrupts short-term memory.

    The Canadian team from Ottawa University narrowed the effect down to a particular type of brain cell called an astrocyte.

    Writing in the journal Cell, they said it might be possible to block it in medicines based on cannabis.

    A UK researcher said it could reveal more about natural brain chemicals.

    Cannabis floods the brain with a host of chemicals which mimic one of its own subtle signalling systems, leading to pronounced changes in mood and memory.

    Scientists are trying to harness the power of these chemicals, called cannabinoids, in pharmaceuticals aimed at conditions such as multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.

    The doses of cannabinoid are carefully controlled to avoid the "high" feeling.

    The work by the Ottawa University researchers may shed light on how one of the best known cannabinoids, THC, acts on the brain.

    Memory matters

    Their work suggests that, when it comes to affecting memory, THC is acting not, as might be expected, on the brain's neurons, but on a brain cell called an astrocyte.

    They bred mice whose astrocytes could not be affected by THC, and found that their spatial memory was unaffected by the dose.

    This discovery could help drug companies reduce the risk of unwanted side effects when using THC in their products, they suggested.

    However, possibly more importantly, it could shed light on the brain's own chemical pathways, the "endocannabinoid" system.

    Dr Xia Zhang, one of the researchers, said: "Just about any physiological function you can think of in the body, it's likely at some point endocannabinoids are involved."

    Understanding how this system works could lead to ways to make it work better, he suggested.

    "We may find a way to deal with working memory problems in Alzheimer's," he said.

    Prof Heather Ashton, from the University of Newcastle, said that memory problems were an established feature of cannabis use, and understanding the mechanism behind them was "interesting".

    She said: "When someone is taking cannabis, in some cases you find that they cannot even remember starting a sentence by the time they reach the end."

    But she agreed that the practical benefits of such research might ultimately lie in a better understanding of the body's own endocannabinoid system, rather than the effects of cannabis itself.

    Source: BBC News © British Broadcasting Corporation 2012 (05/03/12)

    Synthetic cannabinoid halts progression of Multiple Sclerosis, study says

    Cannabis Investigators at Complutense University in Madrid assessed the impact of WIN55,512-2, a synthetic cannabinoid agonist, in an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS). Researchers reported that the treatment moderated disease progression and reduced MS symptom, including spasms and tremors.

    "In summary, the treatment of EAE (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis) mice with the cannabinoid agonist WIN55,512-2 reduced their neurological disability and the progression of the disease," authors concluded. "This effect was exerted through the activation of CB(1) receptors, which would exert a positive influence in the reduction of inflammatory events linked to the pathogenesis of this disease."

    In 2008, investigators at the University of California at San Diego reported that inhaled cannabis significantly reduced objective measures of pain intensity and spasticity in patients with MS in a placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Researchers concluded, "Smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in reducing spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis and provided some benefit beyond currently prescribed treatment."

    Clinical trial data assessing the use of Sativex, a spray containing organic cannabinoid extracts, in MS patients reports, "Long-term use of (the drug) maintains its effect in those patients who perceive initial benefit." Sativex is presently available by prescription for the treatment of multiple sclerosis in Canada, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

    According to survey data published in 2004 in the journal Neurology, an estimated one in seven patients with MS reports using cannabis therapeutically to treat symptoms of the disease.

    Full text of the study, "Cannabinoids ameliorate disease progression in a model of multiple sclerosis in mice, acting preferentially through CB(1) receptor-mediated anti-inflammatory effects," will appear in the journal Neuropharmacology.

    Source: ENews Park Forest © 2006 - 2012 eNews Park Forest (02/03/12)

    Cannabidiol inhibits pathogenic T cells, decreases spinal microglial activation and ameliorates MS-like disease in mice

    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Cannabis extracts and several cannabinoids have been shown to exert broad anti-inflammatory activities in experimental models of inflammatory CNS degenerative diseases. Clinical use of many cannabinoids is limited by their psychotropic effects. However, phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD), devoid of psychoactive activity, are, potentially, safe and effective alternatives for alleviating neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration.

    EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: We used experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) induced by myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) in C57BL/6 mice, as a model of multiple sclerosis. Using immunocytochemistry and cell proliferation assays we evaluated the effects of CBD on microglial activation in MOG-immunized animals and on MOG-specific T-cell proliferation.

    KEY RESULTS Treatment: with CBD during disease onset ameliorated the severity of the clinical signs of EAE. This effect of CBD was accompanied by diminished axonal damage and inflammation as well as microglial activation and T-cell recruitment in the spinal cord of MOG-injected mice. Moreover, CBD inhibited MOG-induced T-cell proliferation in vitro at both low and high concentrations of the myelin antigen. This effect was not mediated via the known cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors.

    CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, ameliorates clinical signs of EAE in mice, immunized against MOG. Suppression of microglial activity and T-cell proliferation by CBD appeared to contribute to these beneficial effects.

    LINKED ARTICLES: This article is part of a themed issue on Cannabinoids in Biology and Medicine. To view the other articles in this issue visit

    Ewa Kozela1, Nirit Lev, Nathali Kaushansky, Raya Eilam, Neta Rimmerman, Rivka Levy, Avraham Ben-Nun, Ana Juknat, Zvi Vogel

    Source: Wiley Online Library Copyright © 1999–2011 John Wiley & Sons, Inc (14/07/11)

    Brain cannabinoid CB1 receptors blunted in cannabis users

    CannabisChronic marijuana smokers show a decrease in cannabinoid CB1 receptor activity, which correlates with the number of years of cannabis smoking, but the deficits are reversed after just 4 weeks of abstinence, according to research presented here at the Society for Nuclear Medicine 2011 Annual Meeting.

    Cannabinoid CB1 receptors influence brain functions, including pleasure, appetite, concentration, perception of time and memory, pain tolerance, and other psychological and physiological functions. Previous studies on rodents have shown a downregulation in CB1 receptors related to chronic cannabis exposure, followed by recovery during abstinence.

    The receptors have come under focus since researchers at the National Institutes of Health developed a novel imaging agent to identify them in the human brain. The agent, a promising positron emission tomography (PET) ligand for the CB1 receptor — [18F]FMPEP-d2 ((3R,5R)-5-(3-(fluoromethoxy)phenyl)-3-((R)-1-phenylethylamino)-1-(4-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)pyrrolidin-2-one) — is a radioligand that combines a radioactive fluorine isotope and a neurotransmitter analog, and binds with CB1 brain receptors.

    In investigating whether similar patterns exist in humans, researchers used the new imaging agent to evaluate cannabinoid CB1 receptor patterns in chronic daily cannabis smokers and compare them with the brain scans of healthy male nonsmokers.

    The study was a collaborative effort between the National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse, in Bethesda, Maryland.

    The marijuana users (n = 30) had abused cannabis for an average of about 12 years, and were smoking about 10 joints per day before being enrolled in a closed inpatient research unit for approximately 4 weeks of abstinence.

    They received PET scan brain imaging the day after admission and at the end of the 4-week period.

    The images were compared with those of the nonsmokers (n = 28), whose criteria included a lifetime cannabis exposure of 10 times or less.

    The results showed that the cannabinoid CB1 receptors were decreased by approximately 20% in cannabis smokers at baseline, compared with healthy controls, in cortical but not subcortical regions of the brain.

    However, after 4 weeks of monitored abstinence, the PET scans of the 14 cannabis smokers showed some recovery in the areas that had shown a downregulation at baseline.

    Although the results suggest no correlation with measures of craving or withdrawal, there was a negative correlation with years of abuse, according to Jussi Hirvonen, MD, PhD, lead author of the study.

    "People who had abused cannabis for longer periods of time had smaller CB1 receptor distribution volume than people who had smoked for shorter periods of time," he explained.

    "This could have been confounded by the subjects' age, because older subjects had more time to smoke cannabis than younger subjects. There was no correlation between distribution volume and age among healthy subjects."

    The study is the first to demonstrate CB1 receptor downregulation in human chronic cannabis users, Dr. Hirvonen said.

    "We have an imaging biomarker that is directly relevant to the effects of cannabis. We can use this biomarker to study the pathophysiology of various brain disorders known to be associated with cannabinoids."

    Satoshi Minoshima, MD, PhD, who moderated the session, agreed that the identification of a this biomarker offers the promise of a better understanding of the effects of cannabis abuse on the brain.

    "Cannabinoid receptor PET imaging is a relatively new field," said Dr. Minoshima, professor and vice chair of research in the Department of Radiology and Bioengineering and director of the Neuroimaging and Biotechnology Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    "This study is done well and provides neurochemical insights into cannabis dependency in human subjects. This is an initial study demonstrating downregulation, but I hope the authors will continue this research and correlate such neurochemical changes to clinical symptoms and addiction traits."

    The research was supported by the Intramural Program of National Institute of Mental Health (project No. Z01-MH-002852-04). Dr. Hirvonen and Dr. Minoshima have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

    Society for Nuclear Medicine (SNM) 2011 Annual Meeting: Abstract 10. Presented June 5, 2011.

    Source: Medscape Medical News © 2011 WebMD, LLC (10/06/07)

    Cannabis-like drugs could kill pain without the high

    CannabisAn ingenious set of experiments has teased apart the mind-altering and pain-relieving effects of the main component of cannabis. This could open the way to cannabis-like drugs that provide pain relief without causing unwanted highs.

    Cannabis is taken as a painkiller – to dull pain in cancer for example – but it can produce unpleasant side effects such as hallucinations and impaired mobility.

    Now, a team led by Li Zhang of the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Maryland, has shown that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active component in cannabis that makes people high but that is also thought to dull pain – binds to different molecular targets on cells to produce these two effects.

    It has long been known that THC gives people a high by binding to a molecular anchor on cells called the cannabinoid type-1 (CB1) receptor. Zhang and his team discovered that THC relieves pain by binding instead to receptors for the brain-signalling compound glycine and increasing their activity.

    Through experiments on mice, they then confirmed that if the glycine receptor is absent or if its activity is blocked by another drug, the animals experienced pain in a standard "tail-flick" test even when given THC, confirming that the drug's pain-relief and psychotropic effects can be decoupled.

    Target receptor

    "We found that this glycine receptor could be a primary target for developing non-psychoactive forms of cannabis," says Lhang.

    "This is an important breakthrough in the long-sought separation of intoxicant effects of THC from its desired medical effects," says Les Iversen at the University of Oxford in the UK, who studies the effects of marijuana.

    However, Stephen Wright, director of research and development for GW Pharmaceuticals in Porton Down, UK, thinks that there are other ways that cannabis-based medicines may be able to provide pain relief without the side effects. Last year the firm launched a cannabis-based medicine in Europe called Sativex to dampen painful muscle spasms in patients with multiple sclerosis.

    Wright says that no persistent psychotic effects have been seen with the product, partly because it is released into the body 20 to 40 times more slowly than THC is released when cannabis is smoked. As well as THC, GW's preparation contains cannabidiol, a component of marijuana thought to dampen psychotic reactions to THC.

    No psychotic effects been seen in the US, where Sativex is being trialled to combat pain in cancer patients.

    Full Article - Nature Chemical Biology, DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.552 -

    Source: New Scientist © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd. (05/04/11)

    Medical marijuana may not be good for MS patients - study

    CannabisAlthough medical marijuana has been legalized in many U.S. states, people with multiple sclerosis should think twice before they start using the drug routinely, researchers say.

    In a small study published Monday, they found people with the nerve-damaging autoimmune disease did worse on a number of psychological tests if they were heavy marijuana smokers.

    "In multiple sclerosis, you already have a group of patients who are cognitively impaired," said Dr. Anthony Feinstein, who led the new work. "When you add marijuana to the mix, you might worsen those problems."

    Still, the study doesn't prove that marijuana fuels mental decline, Feinstein said. And even if it does, some people might choose to live with that trade-off.

    Many people with chronic diseases say the illegal drug helps relieve their symptoms, and a few studies have hinted that cannabis extracts might alleviate pain, spasticity and other problems in multiple sclerosis (MS).
    The disease gnaws away at the fatty sheath around nerve cells, which can cause severe symptoms like vision loss, numbness, tremors, muscle stiffness and mental changes.

    According to the National MS Society, some 400,000 Americans have MS. Of those, about one in six smoke marijuana, Feinstein said, yet almost no research has looked at how it affects their minds.

    "There are just no data on the topic," Feinstein, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto, told Reuters Health.

    So he and his colleagues decided to compare the mental skills of two groups of 25 people with MS. One group was made up of regular marijuana users -- the majority had smoked it daily for many years -- and the other included only non-users.

    The two groups were matched on age, stage and course of disease, education and other factors.

    Nearly two-thirds of the marijuana smokers were classified as cognitively impaired based on a several psychological tests, such as information processing speed and verbal memory (all taken at least 12 hours after the patients had last used marijuana).

    By comparison, only a third of the non-users had similar mental impairment.
    The effect was independent of other factors that might affect mental functioning - such as whether the participants drank alcohol or were depressed or anxious.

    Still, short of running an actual experiment that administers the drug randomly to volunteers, it's impossible to prove that marijuana use was at the root of the lower mental performance seen in the regular pot smokers.

    "It's not really surprising," said Dr. Shaheen Lakhan of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who also runs the non-profit Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation in Panorama City, California.

    "It's a long established observation that there are negative cognitive effects on cannabis users," Lakhan said. "But I must say that most MS patients that I am familiar with find that their pain and spasticity are very disturbing, and they might choose this as a priority."

    He added that there are several medications approved to treat MS symptoms, including muscle relaxants, though all have side effects.

    Feinstein said people with MS should be careful about smoking marijuana, especially because the therapeutic benefits appear to be weak.

    Still, he said, people in different situations may have different priorities.
    "I don't want to be dogmatic about it," Feinstein told Reuters Health. "It's really going to vary with the individual patient."

    Source: Reuters Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters (29/03/11)

    Cannabis use 'raises psychosis risk' - study

    CannabisUsing cannabis as a teenager or young adult increases the risk of psychosis, a report suggests.

    The study published in the British Medical Journal involved tracking 1,900 people over a period of 10 years.

    Although the link between cannabis and psychosis is well-established, it had been unclear whether cannabis triggers the disorder.

    This research strongly suggests that cannabis use comes first, rather than people taking it for their symptoms.

    The research was led by Professor Jim van Os from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and included researchers from the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and the UK.

    They excluded anyone who reported cannabis use or pre-existing psychotic symptoms at the start of the study, which took place in Germany.

    The participants in the study, aged between 14 and 24, were assessed for cannabis use and psychotic symptoms at three points over a ten-year period.

    It found that cannabis use "significantly" increased the risk of psychotic symptoms, even when other factors such as socio-economic status, use of different drugs and other psychiatric conditions were taken into account.

    Three years ago the Labour government restored cannabis to Class B - against the advice of its own drug advisers who said cannabis played only a "modest" role in the development of psychotic illnesses.

    Source: BBC News © British Broadcasting Corporation 2011 (02/03/11)

    Researcher expands understanding of marijuana’s health impact

    CannabisChemical compounds in marijuana can suppress the body’s immune functions — potentially speeding the growth of some cancers but possibly helping in the fight against arthritis, multiple sclerosis or allergies.

    The good-news, bad-news findings were published in this month’s European Journal of Immunology, based on a study led by USC researcher Prakash Nagarkatti. An immunologist who has been exploring the potential of cannabis for eight years, Nagarkatti refers to the findings as “a double-edged sword.”

    Nagarkatti’s earlier studies dealt mostly with marijuana’s potential to treat leukemia. The latest report, at first glance, seems to contradict his earlier findings. But Nagarkatti says the seeming contradiction just emphasizes the complexities of both marijuana and cancer.

    “Cancer is not one illness. It is a very wide range of illnesses,” said Nagarkatti, the Carolina Distinguished Professor in the department of pathology, microbiology and immunology at the USC School of Medicine. “And marijuana has over 400 different chemicals. It’s such a complex plant that we don’t know the impact of all of those chemicals.”

    The latest study on lab mice opens avenues for more research on the subject. Nagarkatti hopes it’ll lead to human clinical trials.

    He also knows it will stir up the medicinal cannabis debate.

    “I’m getting a lot of e-mails from both sides already,” he said.

    Many comments tacked onto early online reporting about the study blast Nagarkatti as anti-medicinal marijuana. Those commenting don’t realize his earlier studies showed the promise of marijuana components, or that this study indicated as much positive and negative.

    The research focused on cannabinoids, compounds found in the marijuana plant, and their impact on myeloid-derived suppressor cells. Research shows those cells suppress the immune system. Nagarkatti, along with co-authors Venkatesh Hegde and Mitzi Nagarkatti, found cannabinoids trigger creation of huge amounts of myeloid-derived suppressor cells in mice.

    If the findings in mice are replicated in humans, doctors might re-think the use of the one FDA-approved, marijuana-derived drug — Marinol — to battle the nausea of chemotherapy and stimulate appetite in HIV-AIDS patients.
    While reducing nausea, marijuana’s cannabinoids might also speed death by suppressing the immune system critical to battling many forms of cancer and infections. Of course, since HIV-AIDS also destroys the immune system, the impact of marijuana on the system in those cases might be minimal.

    Conversely, cannabinoids might be a new tool for doctors to treat arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In those auto-immune diseases, your immune system goes into overdrive, destroying healthy cells. By suppressing immune response, cannabinoids could lessen the severity of those diseases. It also could help people battle allergies and fight transplant rejection, Nagarkatti said.

    While smoking medicinal marijuana has been legalized in some states, the only FDA-approved application of cannabinoids in the U.S. is Marinol. Nagarkatti is fascinated by the medical possibilities of marijuana cannabinoids, but he doesn’t recommend self-prescribing its use.

    “It’s a complex mixture of chemicals that’s not something to be played with,” Nagarkatti said.

    Source: The State Copyright (02/12/10)

    MS treatment – plans for induced pain drug INT0010

    CannabisIntelGenx Corp. announced that it has acquired exclusive rights to, and ownership of, INT0010, an improved formulation of THC (dronabinol) for the symptomatic management of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) induced neuropathic pain and chemotherapy induced nausea. These markets are multi-billion dollar markets worldwide, and believed to be growing.

    IntelGenx entered into a royalty based licensing agreement with PediPharm Ltd. Under the terms of the agreement, IntelGenx has obtained worldwide rights to US Patent 7,592,328 and all corresponding foreign patents and patent applications to exclusively develop and further provide intellectual property protection for INT0010. PediPharm would receive a signing fee and a milestone payment upon IntelGenx securing a commercialisation partner for the product, along with a royalty from all sales of the product world-wide.

    IntelGenx has also executed a binding Memorandum of Understanding with Cynapsus Therapeutics, its former development partner whereby, for forgiveness of debt and a royalty on future sales of the product, IntelGenx has acquired full control of, and interest in, INT0010 going forward.

    “We are very excited to have acquired full control and ownership of INT0010 at this critical juncture in the product’s development” commented Horst G. Zerbe, President and Chief Executive Officer of IntelGenx. “The product has already completed a successful Phase I study demonstrating increased bioavailability of dronabinol and reduced levels of its psychotropic metabolite versus the existing FDA approved THC product. INT0010 is a unique, patent protected formulation with the potential to become a billion dollar product. We believe this is the right time for a commercial partner to step in and advance the project and are currently in discussions with several companies that have expressed an interest in commercializing the product.”

    Source: Star Global Tribune © 2010 Star Global Tribune (01/12/10)

    Cannabis may relieve chronic nerve pain

    CannabisSmoking cannabis from a pipe can significantly reduce chronic pain in patients with damaged nerves, a study suggests.

    A small study of 23 people also showed improvements with sleep and anxiety.

    Writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the researchers said larger studies using inhaler-type devices for cannabis were needed.

    UK experts said the pain relief seen was small but potentially important, and more investigation was warranted.

    Around 1 to 2% of people have chronic neuropathic pain - pain due to problems with signalling between nerves - but effective treatments are lacking.

    Some patients with this type of chronic pain say smoking cannabis helps with their symptoms.

    And researchers have been investigating whether taking cannabinoids - the chemicals within cannabis that effect pain - in pill form could have the same effect.

    But the team from McGill University in Montreal said clinical trials on smoked cannabis were lacking.

    The study used three different potencies of cannabis - containing 2.5%, 6% and 9.4% of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol - as well as a placebo (dummy version).

    Under nurse supervision, participants inhaled a single 25mg dose through a pipe three times a day for five days followed by nine days off, for four cycles.

    Those given the highest dose had significantly reduced average pain compared with the placebo as well as less anxiety and depression, and better sleep.

    Study leader Dr Mark Ware said: "To our knowledge, this is the first outpatient clinical trial of smoked cannabis ever reported."

    He said larger more long-term studies with higher potencies of cannabis were needed to further test the findings and to better assess safety.

    Clinical trials using inhaler-type devices for delivering measured amounts of cannabis should be carried out, he added.

    Professor Tony Dickenson, an expert in pain medicine at University College London, said a lot of patients with this type of pain say they benefit from cannabis but there were clearly health issues associated with self-medicating in this way.

    He also said the pain relief seen was quite small but could make an important difference to patients who often suffer sleeplessness and depression because of their condition.

    It was also worth investigating whether inhaling the drug was a more effective way of getting it into the body than taking it orally, he added.

    "It may be important in the future to find patients who respond particularly well because it may be that it is not suitable for some groups, such as older patients," he said.

    "They didn't get as many patients in the trial as they wanted and it shows that this sort of research is very difficult to do."

    Dr Peter Shortland, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: "Importantly, smoking the drug did not produce the psychoactive effects commonly associated with full strength cannabis."

    He added the trial was "an encouraging step forward" but further large-scale clinical trials were warranted.

    Source: BBC News © British Broadcasting Corporation 2010 (30/08/10)

    Cannabis-like substance in brain controlled by newly discovered mechanism

    CannabisA newly discovered molecular mechanism helps control the amount and effectiveness of a substance that mimics an active ingredient in cannabis, but that is produced by the body's own nerve cells.

    The results were reported in the latest Nature Neuroscience. The lead author on the study is William R. Marrs of the Neurobiology and Behavior program at the University of Washington (UW). The senior author is Dr. Nephi Stella, UW professor of pharmacology and psychiatry.

    In previous papers, Stella and other scientists have noted that the body manufactures several cell signals that mimic the actions of cannabis-derived chemicals These signals are called endocannabinoids, a Latin-derived name for cannabis-like constituents created by the body's own cells (endo).

    Marrs, Stella and their research team study endocannabinoids, their receptors on cells, and the cell functions controlled by these signals.

    They hope their future work encourages the design of therapies to modulate these molecular communications. Specifically targeted treatments, for example, might give cancer and AIDS patients the same medicinal benefits as cannabis without its mind-altering properties.

    Because cannabinoid signaling systems are common throughout the body and affect a variety of functions, therapies aimed at these systems might be more wide-ranging than simply a better substitute for medicinal marijuana. Stella is especially interest in the potential for helping people with conditions for which even symptomatic treatment is limited or non-existent, such as multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, Huntington's disease and other autoimmune or neurological disorders.

    Earlier Stella's group discovered a key endocannabinoid, called 2-AG, that carries a type of messaging between brain cells. 2-AG is also implicated in brain cell migration and brain tissue inflammation. It does this by activating one type of cannabinoid receptor on neurons, and another type of cannabinoid receptor on microglia, the tiny cells that clean up debris, like damaged nerve cells and plaque, in the brain and spinal cord. As the brain's first line of defense against infection, microglia are attune to the most subtle clues suggesting an attack.

    Stella's team further investigated 2-AG nerve cell signaling in the study just published in Nature Neuroscience. They looked at an enzyme called ABHD6, newly identified by other scientists using advanced protein profiling technology, also known as proteomics. ABHD6 is present in nerve cells in the brain.

    Stella's team observed that this enzyme degrades the 2-AG nerve signaling substance by splitting it with water. This happens near the cell receptor for the 2-AG signal.

    Source: Medical News Today © 2010 MediLexicon International Ltd (10/08/10)

    GW Pharmaceuticals & Otsuka agree further global cannabinoid research collaboration
    CannabisGW Pharmaceuticals plc and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. today announce that they have signed a three year extension to their global cannabinoid research collaboration.

    This collaboration was originally signed in July 2007 with a three year term, and the collaboration will now extend to the end of June 2013.

    Under the research collaboration agreement, GW and Otsuka Pharmaceutical research a range of GW cannabinoids as potential new drug candidates in the field of Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders and oncology.

    Over the next three years, Otsuka Pharmaceutical will make available a research fund of $12 million to cover research activities carried out under this Agreement. Otsuka Pharmaceutical has the discretion to increase this funding from time to time as the development of selected drug candidates advances.

    Dr Geoffrey Guy, GW’s Chairman, said, “Over the last three years, the GW-Otsuka research collaboration has yielded highly promising data and new intellectual property for GW cannabinoids across a range of target indications within CNS and oncology. We are very pleased that Otsuka has elected to extend this collaboration and believe that this provides a significant endorsement of the potential of GW’s cannabinoid pipeline”.

    Dr. Taro Iwamoto, President and Representative Director of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. said, “We are delighted with the progress of our collaboration with GW Pharmaceuticals in the investigation of cannabinoids as potential new medicines in the field of CNS and oncology. Over the last three years, GW and Otsuka have formed a strong close working relationship and we are excited to be extending our collaboration to develop and commercialize innovative new treatments in order to further our contribution to global well being”.

    The GW-Otsuka research collaboration is led by a joint research team incorporating senior scientists from both companies. This team works in close collaboration with a number of leading cannabinoid scientists around the world in the evaluation of a range of GW cannabinoids as drug candidates within the field of CNS and oncology.

    The objective of this collaboration is to select the most promising candidates for full clinical development, regulatory approval and global commercialization. Products selected for full development will be the subject of a license from GW. Under the terms of each product license, Otsuka Pharmaceutical will fund the global development and commercialization of such products, and GW will receive license fees, milestone payments and a long term commercial supply price and royalty. The financial terms of each license are to be agreed at the time of selection of each product for global development.

    In addition to the research agreement, GW and Otsuka Pharmaceutical also collaborate in the development of Sativex®, GW’s lead product, in the United States under an exclusive license agreement signed in February 2007. The initial target indication for Sativex in the US is as a treatment of pain in patients with advanced cancer, who experience inadequate analgesia during optimized chronic opioid therapy.

    Source: GW Pharmaceuticals (30/06/10)

    Slowing MS progression with cannabinoids

    CannabisA $1.5 million National Institutes of Health grant will help Temple University researchers study more effective ways to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). 

    The research uses synthetic (man-made) cannabinoids based on chemicals obtained from the marijuana plant.

    Sierra Blankenship, who suffers from MS and lives in Lima, Ohio, says this is a new angle she's never heard of before.  "I mean, we've all heard of Montel Williams and others using medical marijuana for pain, but I never thought there was more to it than that."

    It is all part of calming the immune system, and since MS causes such a high level of immune system in a person that it attacks the central nervous system, something is needed to calm it down.  Current medications such as steroids and chemotherapy turn off the immune system and it leaves the patients vulnerable to infections and germs.

    “A marijuana plant has about 96 different chemicals in it and you might immediately think about those that cause psychological effects,” says researcher Ron F. Tuma, Stewart professor of physiology and associate professor of neurosurgery. “Instead, we’re focusing on a chemical that doesn’t cause psychoactive effects but does affect the immune system.”

    The key link between the marijuana plant and the human body is they both produce cannabinoids which act with specific receptors in the immune system that regulate the immune system and Tuma and Ganea believe they can make a chemical compound, O-1996, to act as a cannabinoid and control the activation of the proper immune cells.

    “MS is a terrible disease and the more rapidly it progresses, the sooner it disables its victims,” says co-researcher Doina Ganea, Earle H. Spaulding chair and professor of microbiology and immunology. “So, if you can slow that down for 10 or 20 years, you can make a significant impact on the patients’ lives.”

    The O-1996 was made by scientists at the Medical College of Virginia and the company Organix and Tuma and Ganea have already performed animal studies with it.  Studies show it affected cannabinoid receptors that are seen primarily on immune cells and it was published in the Journal Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

    They also had the help of fellow researchers in the Center for Substance Abuse and Research (CSAR), including Mary Abood, Ph.D., and Martin Adler, Ph.D., who had already been studying cannabinoids. “This is a totally new approach to treating this disease,” says Dr. Adler, director emeritus and senior advisor for CSAR and Laura H. Carnell professor of pharmacology research. “These cannabinoids hold enormous potential, and that’s encouraging since we’re limited in options when it comes to preventing or reversing MS.”

    On a side note, Dr. Adler has family members that suffer from MS and has this personal knowledge armed with being a neuropharmacologist to help aid a win in this battle.

    It is currently unknown if others are studying this angle marijuana plays in MS and all the researchers are excited about this study.  They have a four-year NIH grant that begins July 1, the study was funded by a $50,000 seed grant from Temple’s Office of the Provost and a $50,000 bridge grant from the Office for Research and Strategic Initiatives.

    Ganea is enthusiastic about this, he says, "I know of no other universities in this country that have several principal investigators coming from different directions interested in studying cannabinoids. That different expertise is our strength."

    Source:  © 2009 Clarity Digital Group (25/05/10)

    Standardized cannabis in Multiple Sclerosis: A case report

    A 52 year old female suffering from severe progressive multiple sclerosis was administered quantifiable amounts of standardized cannabis and monitored over the period of one year, while providing daily pain charts and records of her condition. An average daily intake of 500 mg of Tetrahydrocannabinol as cannabis was required to achieve a desired quality of life.

    Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a difficult disease both to diagnose and to treat. Diagnosis often requires multiple visits to the physician and it may take years before MS is diagnosed, typed and treated.

    There is no cure for MS. Treatment is based on powerful immune system suppressants, mainly steroids and various types of Interferon, although others may be used as well. In addition, many types of medications including anticholinergics, antispasmodics, benzodiazepines and opiates are used to manage the muscle spasms, bladder incontinence issues and nerve pain that may be associated with MS. They do however prevent recurrence and slow progression of the illness. Prevention of MS through vitamin D supplementation is an intriguing possibility.

    In the study described here we trace the cannabis use of an MS patient over the course of one year. High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) was performed to quantify cannabis. The subject made significant improvement with better pain control, decreased muscle spasms and general quality of life. The case described here is one of many observed at the Green Cross Society of B.C.

    Case Presentation

    The subject in this study, a 52-year-old female, is a member of the Green Cross Society which is a non-profit, organization, dedicated to supplying quality controlled, standardized cannabis to its qualified members. The participant involved in this year-long study was chosen primarily because she had an attentive, full-time, caregiver, who had tracked her illness since its beginning in the late 1970's. It was the caregiver that first noticed that cannabis was beneficial in relieving her symptoms. This however, was sometime after the disease was diagnosed.

    Initially she was subjected to a 10-day regimen of ACTH, plus various muscle relaxants and anxiolytics. Intermittent ACTH treatment occurred until 1985 when Magnetic Resonance Imaging confirmed her diagnosis with MS. She then began daily injections of Copaxone, which gave benefits including reduction of muscle spasms and a degree of pain management. In addition, she would also smoke cannabis to further alleviate symptoms.

    Initial symptoms had included numbness of the right side of the lip, and a depressed gag reflex that made swallowing difficult. These symptoms had been present for a decade prior to the suspicion and diagnosis of MS. In 1983, she began experiencing extreme pain in her lower lumbar region that radiated to her left foot, affecting her ability to walk. When she first came to the Society in 2007, she complained of chronic pain, tremor, difficulty in walking and a severe constant pain in her left foot.

    Through the Green Cross Society, the subject received advice on the best cannabis strain selection for her symptoms plus options on means of administration and dosage regimens. For the following year she ingested cannabis that had been tested for concentrations of the most abundant cannabinoids including Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD) and Cannabinol (CBN). Her caregiver provided daily (email) pain charts, plus ingested medications, and a description of the subject's general well being throughout the study.


    Results were assessed through daily dialogue with the subject's caregiver, review of accumulated pain charts, plus the subject's testimony. An almost immediate improvement was seen in the patient's condition when she began administering the standardized oral preparations. Pain scores were reduced from an 8–10 to 1–2 over the period of the first month during which time the optimal dosing regimen was established. Greatest benefit for pain and tremor was achieved consuming 6–8, 50 mg capsules per day, dosing at 4-hour intervals. The subject also consumed an average of 4–6 cannabis cigarettes per day, for breakthrough pain and/or mood enhancement. Measurement of the mean THC concentration of these cigarettes was 172 ± 26 n = 30, that would equate to a dosage of 25 mg of THC per cigarette (0.5 grams per cigarette with roughly 70% loss to atmosphere),[1] adding another 125 mg to her daily consumption, totaling between 400 and 500 mg per day of THC. The average relative amounts of CBD and CBN are roughly 3% of that found for THC. A significant improvement in pain levels, tremor and general well being were observed. Functionally, the patient went from a state of virtual incapacitation to one where she can dress, go for walks and do some gardening: a dramatic improvement over the course of one year.

    The presence of CBD and CBN, although claiming no psychoactive effect, appear to modulate the binding of THC to its receptor and thus alter the efficacy of the preparation. The relative ratio of these three cannabinoids is determined by the specific strain of cannabis. Over the course of the study year it was found that the subject experienced optimal relief with strains containing relatively high CBD to THC ratio of 4–6%, a high THC concentration and relatively low CBN amount. Observations made with the study subject and, indeed, verified day-to-day at the Society is that those managing chronic pain prefer these ratios.

    The seemingly high amounts of THC (approximately 500 mg/day) required by the subject to manage her symptoms are often observed with persons of her genealogy (Scottish). An earlier publication on the effects of standardized cannabis and chronic pain management describes a similar tolerant response.[2] A phenomenon often witnessed at the Society is persons with Celtic genealogy require 3–5 five times greater dosage than those of Middle European or other descent.

    The only observed unwanted side effects were seen when the strain used in the oral capsules was changed to one that did not provide the same pain or anti-tremor relief as the strain provided at an earlier time. Simply put, there was some discomfort experienced in changing strains. Since the subject was receiving the medication by mail, from time to time, she would run out of the oral preparation at which time her symptoms would worsen to their pre-regimen state within days. Recent tests of liver functions proved normal.


    The established non-toxicity of cannabis and non-addictive properties[3] make it an excellent candidate for treating the symptoms of numerous illnesses. The case described here is one of many observed at the Green Cross Society of B.C.

    CBD-A: Cannabidiolic acid; CBD: Cannabidiol; CBN-A: Cannabinolic Acid; CBN: Cannabinol; THC-A: Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid; THC: Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol; THF: tetrahydrofuran; HPLC: high performance liquid chromatography.

    Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for publication of this case report. A copy of the written consent is available for review by the Editor-in-Chief of this journal.

    Competing interests
    The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

    Authors' contributions
    PH conducted data collection and analysis, plus manuscript draft preparation. MS, interpreted data and edited the manuscript.

    The authors would like to thank the membership of the Green Cross Society for their unwavering support and help through all the studies conducted last year.

    Cases J. 2010;3:7 © 2010 Cases Network, Ltd.

    Source: Medscape from WebMD © 1994-2010 by WebMD LLC. (12/03/10)

    Marijuana has therapeutic value for pain-related medical conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis

    CannabisResearchers from the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) have found “reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment” for some specific, pain-related medical conditions.  Their findings, presented today to the California legislature and public, are included in a report available on the CMCR web site at

    “We focused on illnesses where current medical treatment does not provide adequate relief or coverage of symptoms,” explained CMCR director, Igor Grant, MD, Executive Vice-Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine.  “These findings provide a strong, science-based context in which policy makers and the public can begin discussing the place of cannabis in medical care.”

    Researchers have completed five scientific clinical trials, with more in progress.  These studies showed that cannabis can be helpful in easing pain in selected syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system and possibly for painful muscle spasms due to multiple sclerosis.      

    “These scientists created an unparalleled program of systematic research, focused on science-based answers rather than political or social beliefs,” said Senator John Vasconcellos, original author of The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 1999 (SB847) which led to the creation of the CMCR.

    Study results have been published in high-impact medical journals, garnering national and international attention which prompted leading experts to come together and foster scientific dialog on the possible uses of cannabis as a therapeutic agent.  More study will be necessary to figure out the mechanisms of action and the full therapeutic potential of cannabinoid compounds, according to the UC researchers.

    About The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research

    The CMCR was created in 2000 (through the passage of SB847) to conduct clinical and pre-clinical trials of cannabinoids, including smoked marijuana, to provide evidence, one way or the other, to answer the question “Does marijuana have therapeutic value?”  The program’s purpose is to oversee objective, high-quality, medical research that would enhance understanding of the efficacy and adverse effects of marijuana as a pharmacological agent.  The project was never to be construed as encouraging or sanctioning the social or recreational use of marijuana. 

    Source: University of California © 2010 UCSD Medical Center. (20/02/10)

    Cannabis shows promise for reducing multiple sclerosis patients' symptoms

    CannabisDoses of cannabis might help multiple sclerosis (MS) patients subdue their body spasms and move about more easily, according to a new review of recent studies. However, the authors of the paper note, the patients' apparent relief could also be a matter of perception. 

    After reviewing six trials that tested the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) extracts on muscle spasms in a total of 481 MS patients, the authors found "evidence that combined THC and CBD extracts may provide therapeutic benefit."

    In five of the six double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials the researchers analyzed, cannabis-taking patients reported decreases in their spasms. "The subjective experience of symptom reduction was generally found to be significant," wrote the authors, based at the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation in Los Angeles. However, the authors conceded, "participants of both active and placebo trials may not be entirely blind to their treatment status, and this may affect subjective analysis."

    So despite the promising patient reports, MS patients might not get a green light for this treatment just yet. "Objective measures of spasticity failed to provide significant changes," the authors concluded in the paper, published online Wednesday in the journal BMC Neurology.

    Cannabinoids have, however, been shown to offer neuro-protective benefits for MS patients by quelling inflammation through regulation of microglial cells' cytokine levels, and animal studies have revealed antispastic effects of the chemicals.

    One MS patient in New Jersey has been using the drug to treat his symptoms. "It definitely helps for the pain," John Ray Wilson told The Wall Street Journal on Monday. Wilson, however, is facing felony drug charges for growing pot plants because the state does not currently permit the use of medicinal marijuana. State lawmakers are close to changing that, which would make New Jersey residents—like those of more than a dozen other states—off limits to federal prosecution if they follow local medical marijuana laws (per a U.S. Deputy Attorney General announcement in October). Both the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians and the New Jersey State Nurses Association have announced support for the bill, which outgoing Governor Jon Corzine has promised to sign if it passes, the Journal reported.

    The obvious intoxicating side effects of THC treatment have been a concern for both regulators and researchers. The authors of the recent paper, however, noted that a mixture of THC and CBD can limit psychotropic effects. In any case, they found that for the MS patients in the studies at least, "side effects from combined extracts of THC and CBD were generally well tolerated."

    Source: Scientific American © 1996-2009 Scientific American Inc. All Rights Reserved. (03/11/09)

    New UK study suggests minimal relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia or psychosis

    CannabisLast year the UK government reclassified cannabis from a class C to a class B drug, partly out of concerns that cannabis, especially the more potent varieties, may increase the risk of schizophrenia in young people. But the evidence for the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia or psychosis remains controversial. A new study has determined that it may be necessary to stop thousands of cannabis users in order to prevent a single case of schizophrenia.

    Scientists from Bristol, Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine took the latest information on numbers of cannabis users, the risk of developing schizophrenia, and the risk that cannabis use causes schizophrenia to estimate how many cannabis users may need to be stopped to prevent one case of schizophrenia. The study found it would be necessary to stop 2800 heavy cannabis users in young men and over 5000 heavy cannabis users in young women to prevent a single case of schizophrenia. Among light cannabis users, those numbers rise to over 10,000 young men and nearly 30,000 young women to prevent one case of schizophrenia.

    That's just part of the story. Interventions to prevent cannabis use typically do not succeed for every person who is treated. Depending on how effective an intervention is at preventing cannabis use, it would be necessary to treat even higher numbers of users to achieve the thousands of successful results necessary to prevent a very few cases of schizophrenia.

    Matt Hickman, one of the authors of the report published last week in the scholarly journal Addiction, said that "preventing cannabis use is important for many reasons – including reducing tobacco and drug dependence and improving school performance. But our evidence suggests that focusing on schizophrenia may have been misguided. Our research cannot resolve the question whether cannabis causes schizophrenia, but does show that many people need to give up cannabis in order to have an impact on the number of people with schizophrenia. The likely impact of re-classifying cannabis in the UK on schizophrenia or psychosis incidence is very uncertain."

    Source: Eureka Alert! (23/10/09)

    Cannabis may actually prolong pain, not relieve it, study shows


    Cannabis has over recent years been advocated as one of the ways people suffering from chronic diseases could keep their pain under control, and has as such been prescribed by doctors to their patients.

    But a new scientific study comes to show that a class of chemicals found in cannabinoids, the active ingredient in the plant, could in fact be helping pain spread and endure, rather than reduce and calm it. The research comes from experts at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

    According to a new paper, published in the latest issue of the respected journal Science, it may be that the class of compounds known as “endocannabinoids,” which are in fact produced in the human body, may be the triggers that allow pain to endure rather than fading away. The researchers give the example of a person hammering a nail in, who strikes their own finger. After a brief moment of intense pain, a few minutes go by, and they are able to go back to their job. The thinking goes that, if cannabis is involved, the pain would last longer.

    “In the spinal cord there's a balance of systems that control what information, including information about pain, is transmitted to the brain. Excitatory systems act like a car's accelerator, and inhibitory ones act like the brakes. What we found is that in the spinal cord endocannabinoids can disable the brakes,” explains UTMB professor Volker Neugebauer, who was also one of the authors of the Science paper. Other collaborators and authors include UTMB senior research scientist Guangchen Ji and colleagues from research institutes and universities in Switzerland, Hungary, Japan, Venezuela, France and Germany.

    In the new experiments, the researchers used mouse spinal cord slices filled with inhibitory neurons, which stop signals associated with pain, for instance. On them, the team applied biochemical mimics of endocannabinoid compounds, and noticed that their activity stopped. When they used spinal slices which had been engineered to lack endocannabinoid receptors, the reactions appeared as normal. Their work was further proven by using electron microscopy, which proved the receptors for the chemicals were on the inhibitory neurons, and not on the excitatory ones.

    “To sum up, we've discovered a novel mechanism that can transform transient normal pain into persistent chronic pain. Persistent pain is notoriously difficult to treat, and this study offers insight into new mechanisms and possibly a new target in the spinal cord,” concludes Neugebaue.

    Source: Softpedia © 2001 - 2009 Softpedia (17/08/09)

    Impact of cannabis on bones changes with age, study finds


    Scientists investigating the effects of cannabis on bone health have found that its impact varies dramatically with age.

    The study has found that although cannabis could reduce bone strength in young people, it may protect against osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones, in later life.

    The team at the University of Edinburgh has shown that a molecule found naturally in the body, which can be activated by cannabis – called the type 1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1) – is key to the development of osteoporosis.

    It is known that when CB1 comes into contact with cannabis it has an impact on bone regeneration, but until now it was not clear whether the drug had a positive or negative effect.

    Researchers, funded by the Arthritis Research Campaign, investigated this by studying mice that lacked the CB1 receptor. The scientists then used compounds – similar to those in cannabis – that activated the CB1 receptor. They found that compounds increased the rate at which bone tissue was destroyed in the young.

    The study also showed, however, that the same compounds decreased bone loss in older mice and prevented the accumulation of fat in the bones, which is known to occur in humans with osteoporosis. The results are published in Cell Metabolism.

    Osteoporosis affects up to 30 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men at some point in life.

    Stuart Ralston, the Arthritis Research Campaign Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, said: "This is an exciting step forward, but we must recognise that these are early results and more tests are needed on the effects of cannabis in humans to determine how the effects differ with age in people.

    "We plan to conduct further trials soon and hope the results will help to deliver new treatments that will be of value in the fight against osteoporosis."

    Source: University of Edinburgh (14/08/09)

    Link between cannabis and memory loss explained


    A team of scientists at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona have identified the specific part of the brain affected by cannabis and the mechanism by which it causes memory loss, one of the least desirable side-effects of the drug.

    "Although the amnesiac effect of marijuana is well known, the exact molecular mechanisms involved had not been isolated until now", explained Andres Ozaita, professor of pharmacology at UPF and one of the directors of the investigative team.

    The study, carried out using genetically modified mice, shows that the amnesiac effects caused by marijuana affect the intracellular signalling route known as mTOR, which acts on the brain's hippocampus, the area that controls cognitive response.

    "We have discovered the mechanism by which cannabis, which has amnesiac effects, also activates intracelular signals involved in the production of new proteins," the scientist explained, whilst adding that if these signals could be blocked when cannabis was administered, "the effects on memory would also be avoided."

    The team hopes that its study, published today in Nature Neuroscience magazine, will lead to ways of preventing memory loss when cannabis is used to treat illnesses like cancer, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis and glaucoma.

    Source: thinkspain © 2003-2009 Think Web Content, S.L. (03/08/09)

    Cannabis ‘can cause psychosis in healthy people’


    The results of the study appear to confirm a link between psychosis and skunk cannabis, which now accounts for 80 per cent of street seizures of the drug.

    Scientists at the Institute of Psychiatry in King’s College London made the discovery after running tests on 22 healthy men, aged in their late 20s.

    They injected them with THC - a major component of skunk cannabis which has been blamed for increasing psychosis among heavy users.

    By giving a dummy injection to some, and a dose of THC to others, the scientists were able to establish a link between THC and psychosis, in which hallucinations and delusions leave sufferers unable to tell between the real and imagined.

    The team, led by Dr Paul Morrison, concluded: “These findings confirm that THC can induce a transient acute psychological reaction in psychiatrically well individuals.”

    The researchers found that the “extent of psychotic reaction” was not related to “the degree of anxiety or congnitive impairtment” in the men.

    Mary Brett, vice president of Europe Against Drugs, said: “This shows that anyone who is healthy can become psychotic by smoking cannabis. They don’t already have to have a mental illness. Healthy people can become psychotic.”

    The potency of skunk cannabis has increased from six per cent THC - or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol - content in 1995 to 14 per cent in 2005, and has been linked to increased instances of psychosis, particularly among young men.

    Today’s skunk cannabis also contains virtually no traces of another chemical, called CBD (cannabidiol), which appears to counteract the damaging effects of THC.

    The research is the first time that the dangers of skunk cannabis have been tested in the UK. Previous experiments have been run by experts in the US, Holland and Brazil.

    Dr Morrison said the findings offered “additional evidence that can elicit temporary psychotic-like effects in some people”, but stopped short of suggesting they proved a direct link between psychosis and THC.

    He said: “Much more research is needed to clarify if skunk is actually more harmful than traditional cannabis.” More work needed to be carried out on the beneficial effects of CBD in balancing the damaging results of THC.

    Earlier this year then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith restored cannabis from class C to class B status after concerns about adverse health effects, against the advice of her drugs advisers.

    Last year The Daily Telegraph revealed how a BBC reporter Nicky Taylor was injected with THC at the institute. One source who witnessed the effects on Miss Taylor said the effect was “dramatic, it was unpleasant”.

    A survey of 200 users, published in July 2008, found that those who smoked skunk cannabis were 18 times more likely to develop psychosis than those who smoke milder forms of the drug.

    A Home Office spokesman said: “We have always been clear that cannabis is a harmful drug which should not be taken. Its use can lead to physical and psychological harms, and the mental health effects of cannabis use are real and significant.

    “We are taking comprehensive action to tackle cannabis use, from increased enforcement to reduce the supply, along with effective education and early intervention for those most at risk.”

    Source: Flushrush (29/07/09)

    Cannabis damages DNA and may cause cancer, new test reveals


    Using a highly sensitive new test, scientists in Europe are reporting "convincing evidence" that marijuana smoke damages the genetic material DNA in ways that could increase the risk of cancer.

    Researchers note that toxic substances in tobacco smoke can damage DNA and increase the risk of lung and other cancers. However, there has been uncertainty over whether marijuana smoke has the same effect. Scientists are especially concerned about the toxicity of acetaldehyde, present in both tobacco and marijuana. However, it has been difficult to measure DNA damage from acetaldehyde with conventional tests.

    The research was carried out by Rajinder Singh, Jatinderpal Sandhu, Balvinder Kaur, Tina Juren, William P. Steward, Dan Segerback and Peter B. Farmer from the Cancer Biomarkers and Prevention Group, Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

    Raj Singh said: “Parts of the plant Cannabis sativa, also known as marijuana, ganja, and various street names, are commonly smoked as a recreational drug, although its use for such purposes is illegal in many countries.

    The scientists describe development and use of a modified mass spectrometry method that showed clear indications that marijuana smoke damages DNA.

    “There have been many studies on the toxicity of tobacco smoke. It is known that tobacco smoke contains 4000 chemicals of which 60 are classed as carcinogens. Cannabis in contrast has not been so well studied. It is less combustible than tobacco and is often mixed with tobacco in use. Cannabis smoke contains 400 compounds including 60 cannabinoids. However, because of its lower combustibility it contains 50% more carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons including naphthalene, benzanthracene, and benzopyrene, than tobacco smoke.”

    The authors added: “It is well known that toxic substances in tobacco smoke can damage DNA and increase the risk of lung and other cancers. Scientists were unsure though whether cannabis smoke would have the same effect.  Our research has focused on the toxicity of acetaldehyde, which is present in both tobacco and cannabis.”

    The researchers add that the ability of cannabis smoke to damage DNA has significant human health implications especially as users tend to inhale more deeply than cigarette smokers, which increases respiratory burden. "The smoking of 3-4 cannabis cigarettes a day is associated with the same degree of damage to bronchial mucus membranes as 20 or more tobacco cigarettes a day," the team adds.

    "In conclusion, these results provide evidence for the DNA damaging potential of cannabis [marijuana] smoke, implying that the consumption of cannabis cigarettes may be detrimental to human health with the possibility to initiate cancer development," the article states. "The data obtained from this study suggesting the DNA damaging potential of cannabis smoke highlight the need for stringent regulation of the consumption of cannabis cigarettes, thus limiting the development of adverse health effects such as cancer."

    Journal reference:

    1.Singh et al. Evaluation of the DNA Damaging Potential of Cannabis Cigarette Smoke by the Determination of Acetaldehyde Derived N2-Ethyl-2′-deoxyguanosine Adducts. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2009; 22 (6): 1181 DOI: 10.1021/tx900106y.

    Source: Science Daily © 1995-2009 ScienceDaily LLC (17/06/09)

    Chemical in cannabis may slow multiple sclerosis


    In lieu of curing a debilitating disease, the next best thing scientists can do is slow its progression and create better treatments.

    Armed with a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health grant, Temple researchers are studying more effective ways to treat multiple sclerosis. And their research utilizes synthetic cannabinoids based on chemicals derived from the marijuana plant.

    “A marijuana plant has about 96 different chemicals in it and you might immediately think about those that cause psychological effects,” says researcher Ron F. Tuma, Stewart professor of physiology and associate professor of neurosurgery. “Instead, we’re focusing on a chemical that doesn’t cause psychoactive effects but does affect the immune system.”

    Temple researchers Ron F. Tuma and Doina Ganea are studying more effective ways to treat multiple sclerosis using synthetic cannabinoids.
    Calming the immune system is key to fighting the disease. In multiple sclerosis, or MS, a person’s immune system attacks the central nervous system. Current medications, like corticosteroids, turn off the immune response entirely, leaving an MS sufferer vulnerable to infection.

    “MS is a terrible disease and the more rapidly it progresses, the sooner it disables its victims,” says co-researcher Doina Ganea, Earle H. Spaulding chair and professor of microbiology and immunology. “So, if you can slow that down for 10 or 20 years, you can make a significant impact on the patients’ lives.”

    Both the marijuana plant and the human body produce cannabinoids, which essentially act through specific receptors on immune cells regulating the immune response. Think of the receptors as “traffic cops” that tell the immune system when to turn on and off, so that the body knows when to fight an infection and when to stand down. But in the case of MS sufferers, those receptors are on alert, and the immune system is in constant attack mode.

    Tuma and Ganea theorized they could manipulate a man-made chemical to act as a cannabinoid and control the activation of those immune cells.

    Using a compound (O-1996) synthesized by scientists at the Medical College of Virginia and the company Organix, Tuma and Ganea performed animal studies and found that the synthesized chemical affected cannabinoid receptors present primarily on immune cells.

    Their early studies showed that the compound had a positive effect on the immune system by calming down the hyperactivity, which significantly reduced damage to the central nervous system. Their findings were published in the March issue of the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

    But it wasn’t just these two researchers collaborating on this chronic disease. They enlisted the help of fellow researchers in the Center for Substance Abuse and Research (CSAR), including Mary Abood, Ph.D., and Martin Adler, Ph.D., who had already been studying cannabinoids.

    “This is a totally new approach to treating this disease," says Adler, director emeritus and senior advisor for CSAR and Laura H. Carnell professor of pharmacology research. “These cannabinoids hold enormous potential, and that’s encouraging since we’re limited in options when it comes to preventing or reversing MS.”

    Adler would know. Not only because he’s a neuropharmacologist, but because members of his family suffer from MS. They are not alone. More than two million people worldwide suffer from the disease, with another two hundred cases diagnosed weekly in the US.

    “Our goal is to develop new therapeutic agents in the fight against multiple sclerosis and improve the quality of life for the millions who suffer,” says Tuma.

    And both Tuma and Ganea agree that Temple is on the cusp of something big by studying the role of cannabinoids in immune function.

    “I know of no other universities in this country that have several principal investigators coming from different directions interested in studying cannabinoids,” says Ganea. “That different expertise is our strength.”

    In addition to the four-year NIH grant that begins July 1, the study was funded by a $50,000 seed grant from Temple’s Office of the Provost and a $50,000 bridge grant from the Office for Research and Strategic Initiatives.

    Source: Temple University Copyright 2009 (13/05/09)

    Cannabis - testicular cancer link


    Frequent or long-term marijuana use may raise a man's risk of testicular cancer, American research suggests.

    The study of 369 men, published in the journal Cancer, found being a regular marijuana user doubled the risk compared to those who never smoked it.

    The results suggest that it may be linked to the most aggressive form of the cancer.

    A spokesman for Cancer Research UK said that no previous studies had found a link between marijuana and the disease.

    Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in younger men, with approximately 2,000 new cases each year in the UK.

    Incidence in Europe and North America is far higher than in some other parts of the world, and has been rising steadily for no apparent reason.

    Known risk factors for the cancer include previous injuries to the testicles, a family history of the disease, or suffering from undescended testicles as a young child.

    The study from scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle is the first to look specifically at marijuana use in relation to the disease.

    They studied 369 men aged 18 to 44, who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, and quizzed them about marijuana use.

    Their replies were compared to those from almost 1,000 apparently healthy control subjects.

    Even after adjusting the figures to take account of the other known risk factors, marijuana use remained a clear risk factor for testicular cancer.

    Just being a marijuana smoker seemed to carry a 70% extra risk, while those who smoked it regularly, or had smoked from an early age, had twice the risk compared to those who had never smoked it.

    A connection was made to nonseminoma, a fast-growing form of testicular cancer which accounts for approximately 40% of all cases, and tends to strike younger.

    Puberty chance

    Dr Janet Daling, one of the authors, said that puberty might be a "window of opportunity" during which boys were more vulnerable to environmental factors such as the chemicals in marijuana.

    "This is consistent with the study's findings that the elevated risk of nonseminoma-type testicular cancer in particular was associated with marijuana use prior to 18," she said.

    Another research, Dr Stephen Schwartz, said: "What young men should know is first, we know very little about the long-term health consequences of marijuana smoking, especially heavy marijuana smoking, and second, our study provides some evidence that testicular cancer could be one adverse consequence."

    The next step, he said, would be to look more closely at cells in the testicles to see if any of them had receptors set up to respond to cannabis chemicals.

    Henry Scowcroft, from Cancer Research UK, said: "As the researchers themselves point out, this is the first inkling that there is any association between chronic marijuana use and testicular cancer.

    "But the researchers only interviewed a relatively small number of men.

    "So before we can reach any firm conclusions about whether this is a cause-and-effect relationship, rather than a statistical blip, the result needs to be replicated in a much larger study."

    Source: BBC News © British Broadcasting Corporation 2009 (09/02/09)

    New drug may alleviate pain like cannabis

    Cannabis plant

    Scientists have found a way to release the pain-relieving potential of one of the same proteins in the body activated by marijuana, according to a study released today.

    In experiments on mice, researchers found a chemical that prevents a naturally occurring enzyme from blocking this cannabinoid receptor, called 2-arachidonoylgylcerol, or 2-AG.

    Once the enzyme, known as MAGL, is deactivated, the protein is more effective in dampening pain, said the team, led by Benjamin Cravatt of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

    The complex human cannabinoid system is thought to hold great potential for the control of chronic pain, and could also prove useful in the treatment of anxiety, depression and even obesity.

    In earlier research, Mr Cravatt and colleagues decoded the chain of chemical reactions that acted on another cannabinoid receptor, AEA, paving the way for the development of pain-relieving medications.

    But finding the key for unlocking 2-AG proved more difficult.

    The tools - selective and efficacious MAGL inhibitors - just weren't there, said Jonathan Long, a graduate student at Scripps and lead author of the study.

    The breakthrough came thanks to a new technique for rapidly testing large numbers of chemical compounds - all potential inhibitors - called Activity-Based Protein Profiling.

    One of the 200 compounds researchers created was particularly effective in blocking MAGL, and did not appear to interfere with any of several dozen other brain enzymes.

    Tests on mice showed the new molecule - JLZ184 - increased the concentration of 2-AG in the brain, significantly reducing pain in the lab animals.

    The molecule did, however, have at least two drawbacks, highlighted by the complex web of reactions in neurochemical pathways: JLZ184 caused hypothermia, a lowering of the body temperature; and reduced movement.

    These side-effects would have to be managed in any treatments developed for humans, the researchers said.

    Source: The Australian Copyright 2008 News Limited. (24/11/08)

    Cannabis worse than stimulants for depression and anxiety


    Cannabis smokers are more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and psychosis than stimulant drug takers, according to Australian statistics suggesting the herb's toll on mental health has been underestimated.

    The impact of amphetamines on mental state is well known but a new national report shows dope smokers display higher rates of several psychological symptoms when visiting their doctor.

    Of patients who mentioned cannabis use to their GP, 48 per cent had a psychological problem, including 19 per cent with depression and nine per cent with psychosis. Six per cent had anxiety.

    Only 31 per cent of stimulant users reported similar problems, with significantly lower rates of all conditions, according to the latest bulletin released by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre in Sydney.

    Director, professor Jan Copeland, said the results confirm the dangers of the drug, especially for the 300,000 Australians who smoke it daily.

    "It was unexpected, given what we hear about amphetamine-related psychotic symptoms, but it goes to show what a terrible impact cannabis is having on users," Professor Copeland said.

    "The delusions, hallucinations and paranoia can be very distressing and people are feeling it."

    The results, in data collected from 1,000 randomly-selected GPs, also revealed that mentioning cannabis use to a doctor was very rare, with the drug named in just 19,000 consultations nationwide each year.

    Users were more likely to be male, young, unemployed or on a low income and indigenous.

    "The low numbers are a major concern given the sheer number of users and the effects we know that use is having," Professor Copeland said.

    She said too many users still believed cannabis had few health consequences or were nervous mentioning a drug habit to a doctor.

    But Australian Medical Association chair of general practice Dr Rod Pearce said stressed the importance of consulting a doctor.

    "Illegality is a non-issue for us and it absolutely has to be given the increasing body of research linking cannabis smoking with psychiatric illness," Dr Pearce said.

    "I'm not being wowserish either. This is a serious problem."

    About 1.5 million Australians have used cannabis in the past year, with 750,000 smoking it weekly.

    Studies show most people do not experience major problems with occasional use but heavy use can lead to depression, memory loss, lung damage, low sex drive and even brain shrinkage.

    Source: The © 2008. Fairfax Digital (29/09/08)

    Use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases


    Scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) have studied the effects of a drug that reduces the progression of a disease similar to Multiple sclerosis in animals. This discovery represents another step in the standing fight against the disease.

    The research, published in the prestigious Journal of Biological Chemistry, aimed to study in depth the already known effects of lessening the symptoms and stopping the advance of multiple sclerosis that cannabinoids have, while developing a drug that would not have the psychoactive effects of the marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa).

    To achieve this, the scientists have focused their study on the role of the cannabinoids receptor CB2, present both in the immune system as well as in the defence-cells of the nervous system (microglial cells).

    Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease whose causes are not yet fully understood. It is known that the disease is produced by an autoimmune response where the defence-cells in the organism attack and destroy the nerve cells of the organism generating symptoms such as stiffness, twitching, progressive paralysis, etc.

    The researchers managed by Professor Ismael Galve from the UCM, founded their conclusions on the role of the cannabinoids receptors in Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a disease that reproduces some of the proceses and symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In the study it has been tested that administering a drug that activates receptor CB2 (but not CB1, responsible for the psicoactive effects), the sysmptopms of the disease lessen and a reduction of 50% in nerve cell loss was perceived.

    This research has introduced yet another novelty: The stimulation of the CB2 receptor not only reduces the excesive activation of brain cells in charge of the defence of the central nervous system, but it allso reduces the supply of new defence-cells that travelling throught the blood stream from bone marrow, would act as reinforcements for the defence-cells of the central nervous system.

    According to Ismael Galve, the results are important because the drug is capable of acting in an already sick animal, reducing the symptoms and the brain cell loss. The obtained results, along with other predecessors confirm the role of endogenous cannabinoids in the origin of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and its possible application to multiple esclerosis. Therefore the role of the CB2 receptor in the regulation and neuro-inmune response supports the research currently being carried out on the possible use of cannabinoid drugs in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

    The research has been carried out by the department of biochemistry and molecular biology of the Complutense University of Madrid, in collaboration with the Neuroscience research Institute of Lyon in France and the pharmaceutical company Pharmos.

    Source: Innovations Report 2000-2008 by innovations-report (17/09/08)

    New cannabis-like drugs could block pain without affecting brain


    A new type of drug could alleviate pain in a similar way to cannabis without affecting the brain, according to a new study.

    The research demonstrates for the first time that cannabinoid receptors called CB2, which can be activated by cannabis use, are present in human sensory nerves in the peripheral nervous system, but are not present in a normal human brain.

    Drugs which activate the CB2 receptors are able to block pain by stopping pain signals being transmitted in human sensory nerves, according to the study, led by researchers from Imperial College London.

    Previous studies have mainly focused on the other receptor activated by cannabis use, known as CB1, which was believed to be the primary receptor involved in pain relief. However, as CB1 receptors are found in the brain, taking drugs which activate these receptors can lead to side-effects, such as drowsiness, dependence and psychosis, and also recreational abuse.

    The new research indicates that drugs targeting CB2 receptors offer a new way of treating pain in clinical conditions where there are currently few effective or safe treatments, such as chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis and pain from nerve damage. It could also provide an alternative treatment for acute pain, such as that experienced following surgical operations.

    The new study showed that CB2 receptors work to block pain with a mechanism similar to the one which opiate receptors use when activated by the powerful painkilling drug morphine. They hope that drugs which target CB2 might provide an alternative to morphine, which can have serious side effects such as dependency, nausea and vomiting.

    Praveen Anand, Professor of Clinical Neurology and Principal Investigator of the study from the Division of Neurosciences and Mental Health at Imperial College London, said: "Although cannabis is probably best known as an illegal recreational drug, people have used it for medicinal purposes for centuries. Queen Victoria used it in tea to help with her period pains, and people with a variety of conditions say that it helps alleviate their symptoms.

    “Our new study is very promising because it suggests that we could alleviate pain by targeting the cannabinoid receptor CB2 without causing the kinds of side-effects we associate with people using cannabis itself.”

    The researchers reached their conclusions after studying human sensory nerve cells in culture with CB2 receptor compounds provided by GlaxoSmithKline, and also injured nerves from patients with chronic pain.

    The researchers are now planning to conduct clinical trials of drugs which target CB2 in patients with chronic pain at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which has integrated with Imperial College London to form the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre.

    Source: Science Daily © 1995-2008 ScienceDaily LLC (14/09/08)

    Marijuana use for chronic pain and nausea (vertigo)


    Smoked marijuana can bring relief to sufferers of neuropathic pain comparable to that of other painkiller drugs, some studies show.

    Medical marijuana use has a history stretching back thousands of years. In prebiblical times, the plant was used as medicinal tea in China, a stress antidote in India and a pain- reliever for earaches, childbirth and more throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

    In recent decades, medical researchers have investigated marijuana's effects on various kinds of pain -- from damaged nerves in people with HIV, diabetes and spinal cord injury; from cancer; and from multiple sclerosis. Marijuana has also been hypothesized to help with nausea induced by chemotherapy and antiretroviral therapy, and with severe loss of appetite as seen in people with the AIDS wasting syndrome.

    The weed's actions are due to the active ingredients tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and some 60 other cannabinoids, which mimic the action of chemicals -- known as endogenous cannabinoids -- that exist naturally in the brain. Those cannabinoids activate receptors in our nerves, triggering physiological responses.

    A legal prescription form of THC (Marinol) exists, yet researchers say it's far from a perfect drug. Taken orally, its absorption is highly variable and unpredictable and often delayed, says Dr. Igor Grant, a UC San Diego psychiatrist who directs the university's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. "Smoking is a very efficient way to deliver THC," he says.

    As a result of its federally illegal status, medicinal use of marijuana is restricted to carefully vetted clinical research studies or to patients in states such as California that have passed laws to allow for personal medical use. Research on the medicinal use of marijuana relies on government-issued marijuana cigarettes, which come in different strengths and are supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

    The UC Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research in San Diego helps coordinate clinical studies to investigate the safety and effectiveness of marijuana. Here's what they've found.

    Neuropathic pain

    Recent research suggests that marijuana can assuage this chronic-pain syndrome in which burning sensations occur and simple touch can feel like hurt. It is unaffected by aspirin-like drugs and fairly resistant to stronger analgesics such as opiates.

    In a 2007 study on neuropathic pain related to HIV infection, 50 patients smoked marijuana cigarettes three times a day or marijuana cigarettes from which active ingredients had been extracted. Subjects then rated their pain on a scale ranging from "no pain" to "worst pain imaginable." The results, published in the journal Neurology, showed a 34% reduction in ratings of pain in the marijuana group compared with 17% in the placebo group over five days of treatment.

    Another study in 44 patients reported in June in the Journal of Pain found that marijuana alleviated neuropathic pain arising from a variety of conditions, including spinal-cord injury and diabetes. Participants smoked marijuana on a set schedule -- first two puffs, then three puffs an hour later, then four puffs an hour after that -- from a single cigarette containing either 0%, 3.5%, or 7% THC. Average pain ratings before smoking were 55 on a 100-point scale and decreased by 46% in both treatment groups and by 27% in the placebo group one hour after the last puff.

    Analgesic drugs are often tested against experimentally induced pain. Such studies have been conducted for marijuana too. In one 2007 report in the journal Anesthesiology, 15 healthy volunteers received skin injections with capsaicin -- the chemical behind that fiery spice in chile peppers -- and then smoked different-strength marijuana cigarettes. The medium dose, with a 4% THC concentration, lessened the burning pain.

    These three pain studies all concluded that smoked marijuana can bring relief to sufferers of neuropathic pain comparable to other analgesic drugs. It is not a cure, Grant says: "It's like other pain medicines, you have to keep taking it."

    Study subjects did feel high, an effect that varied among individuals. Marijuana also affected thinking, shown as problems with tasks of memory and complicated reasoning after the strongest marijuana cigarettes were used. Potentially problematic, these effects were tolerated by subjects -- no one opted out of the study because they couldn't think straight.

    Grant says it's important to have a choice of treatments because not everyone responds to or can tolerate the available drugs. Antidepressants are used for neuropathic pain but cause dry mouth, constipation and urinary problems, and must be avoided by people with conditions such as glaucoma. Others can't take aspirin-like drugs. "Having an alternative compound is always good," Grant says.

    Multiple sclerosis

    Patients with multiple sclerosis suffer muscle spasms, pain and tremor. Anecdotal reports suggest that marijuana may be helpful, but controlled studies are few. One, presented at an April meeting, had 51 multiple sclerosis patients smoke 0% or 4% THC marijuana cigarettes daily for three days. Intensity of spasms was reduced by 32% and pain ratings by 50% after smoking marijuana, compared with 2% and 22% reductions after placebo cigarettes. Five subjects withdrew, citing side effects: feeling too high, dizzy or fatigued.

    Other studies in patients with multiple sclerosis used a cannabis extract that can be taken orally. In a 2007 European Journal of Neurology study, nearly half of 184 patients experienced at least 30% improvement in muscle spasms.

    But a 2004 Neurology paper showed no reduction in objective measures of arm tremor with cannabis extract, although five subjects out of 13 reported feeling improvement. This might have resulted from mood-altering effects of the drug or from some aspect of tremor not measured.


    A 2008 review published in the European Journal of Cancer Care analyzed 30 clinical studies using cannabinoid drugs synthesized in the lab and concluded that they were better than standard antinausea drugs in alleviating the nausea and vomiting that accompanies chemotherapy. One such drug is Marinol, a THC preparation approved by the Food and Drug Administration for precisely this purpose.

    Survey studies suggest that some people with HIV smoke marijuana to counteract nausea caused by antiretroviral therapy. Researchers at the UC Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research have tried to study the effect of smoked marijuana on nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy but have struggled to enroll enough subjects, Grant says.

    Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project -- a group that lobbies for the decriminalization of marijuana -- says he is all for research on the chemical components in marijuana with the goal of making more-purified and perhaps more-targeted drugs that do not deliver a "high," but does not see "criminalizing use of that plant by people who are ill when you are making its main psychoactive ingredient legal in the form of a very expensive pill."

    Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says marijuana advocates are seeking a free pass. "They want to be exempted from the regular [drug] approval process," he says.

    Source: Los Angeles Times Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times (19/08/08)

    National MS Society makes recommendations regarding therapeutic use of Cannabis


    Cannabis has the potential to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis as well as limit the progression of the disease, according to an expert opinion paper published by the US National Multiple Sclerosis Society. However, the Society stopped short of recommending that MS patients use the drug medicinally.

    “Although it is clear that cannabinoids have potential both for the management of MS symptoms such as pain and spasticity, as well as for neuroprotection, the Society cannot at this time recommend that medical marijuana be made widely available to people with MS for symptom management,” the Society concludes. “This situation might change, should better data become available that clearly demonstrate benefit.”

    The Society recommends that future clinical trials focus on methods of cannabinoid administration that deliver the drug to the bloodstream rapidly, such as vapourization.

    The Society also recommends clinical trials be performed to investigate and quantify cannabis’ potential to slow disease progression, citing “anecdotal reports from patients … that cannabis reduces the frequency of their MS attacks.”

    Investigators at Plymouth’s Peninsula Medical School in Britain recently announced that they had recruited nearly 500 MS patients for a three-year clinical trial assessing whether the use of oral THC can significantly slow the onset of multiple sclerosis.

    Clinical data reported in 2006 from an extended open-label study of 167 multiple sclerosis patients found that the use of whole plant cannabinoid extracts relieved symptoms of pain, spasticity, and bladder incontinence for an extended period of treatment (mean duration of study participants was 434 days) without requiring subjects to increase their dose.

    Results from a separate two-year open label extension trial in 2007 also reported that the administration of cannabis extracts was associated with long-term reductions in neuropathic pain in select MS patients. On average, patients in the study required fewer daily doses of the drug and reported lower median pain scores the longer they took it.

    Commenting on the MS Society report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The MS Society’s recommendations are a positive step, but they don’t go far enough. Surveys indicate that as many as one out of two MS patients use cannabis therapeutically, yet this report does nothing to challenge these patients legal status as criminals.”

    Source: (05/08/08)

    Milestone for cannabinoid Multiple Sclerosis study
    The CUPID (Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease) study at the Peninsula Medical School has reached an important milestone with the news that the full cohort of 493 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been recruited to the programme.

    CUPID is a clinical trial part-funded by the MS Society, which will evaluate whether tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the main active ingredient in the cannabis plant and one of many compounds found in the organism - is able to slow the progression of MS.

    It is an important study for people with MS, because current treatments either target the immune system in the early stages of MS, or ease specific symptoms such as muscle spasms or bladder problems.

    The CUPID trial follows an earlier study - Cannabinoids and Multiple Sclerosis (CAMS) - which established a link between THC and the slowing of MS. The CAMS trial saw participants take THC for a year - the CUPID trial will last for longer and aims to assess the affect of THC on progressive MS.

    It has taken two years to recruit the 493 patients, and they will take part in the trial for three years; in some cases three and a half years. After data cleaning and analysis the results should be available by spring/early summer 2012.

    Dr Laura Bell, research communications officer for the MS Society, said: "People affected by MS are keen to know whether there's any truth in the suggestion that elements of the cannabis plant can help ease the symptoms and slow down progression of the condition.

    "The MS Society is supportive of safe clinical trials investigating the medicinal properties of cannabis and it's great news that this trial is going ahead. We look forward to the results of this exciting study."

    Professor John Zajicek from the Peninsula Medical School, who heads the team carrying out the CUPID study, said: "We are delighted to have achieved the correct number of patient participants for this trial. Patients have been recruited from 27 sites across the UK.

    "If we are able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the link between THC and the slowing down of progressive MS, we will be able to develop an effective therapy for the many thousands of MS sufferers around the world."

    Helen Yates, MSRC Chief Executive, said "MSRC is delighted that the full quota of participants has been reached for this trial.  People affected by MS are keen to find out if the effects of THC extend beyond symptom management and into the area of slowing the progression of the disease.
    We look forward to the results in 2012."

    The CUPID trial is jointly funded by the MS Society, the Multiple Sclerosis Trust and the Medical Research Council.

    Source: PR Newswire Europe Ltd. (21/07/08)

    Multiple sclerosis and cannabis - a cognitive and psychiatric study
    Background: A significant minority of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) use cannabis, yet no study has examined the possible effects on mentation. Here, we report the emotional and cognitive correlates of street cannabis use in patients with MS.

    Methods: A sample of 140 consecutive patients with MS were interviewed with the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) Axis I disorders (SCID-IV) from which details of cannabis use were recorded. Cognition was assessed using the Neuropsychological Battery for MS supplemented with the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), an index of information processing speed, working memory, and sustained attention.

    Results: Ten subjects (7.7%) were defined as current cannabis users based on use within the last month. Compared to non-cannabis users (n = 130), they were younger (p = 0.001). Each of the 10 current cannabis users was matched on demographic and disease variables to four subjects with MS who did not use cannabis (total control sample n = 40). Group comparisons revealed that the proportion of patients meeting DSM-IV criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis was higher in cannabis users (p = 0.04). In addition, on the SDMT, cannabis users had a slower mean performance time (p = 0.006) and a different pattern of response compared to matched controls (group x time interaction; p = 0.001).

    Conclusions: Inhaled cannabis is associated with impaired mentation in patients with multiple sclerosis, particularly with respect to cognition. Future studies are required to clarify the direction of this relationship.

    Omar Ghaffar, MD, FRCP(C) and Anthony Feinstein, MPhil, PhD, FRCP(C)
    From the Neuropsychiatry Program, Department of Psychiatry, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and University of Toronto, Canada.

    Source: Neurology © 2008 by AAN Enterprises, Inc. (15/07/08)

    Cannabis may help ease nerve pain
    Smoking marijuana can cut pain intensity in patients with nerve pain, a new study by University of California Davis has revealed.

    In the study involving thirty-eight patients, researchers examined whether marijuana produces analgesia for patients with neuropathic pain. The subjects were given either high-dose (7 per cent), low-dose (3.5 per cent) or placebo cannabis. They found that identical levels of analgesia were produced at each, both high and low dose of cannabis.

    As with opioids, cannabis does not rely on a relaxing or tranquilizing effect, but reduces the core component of nociception and the emotional aspect of the pain experience to an equal degree. There were undesirable consequences observed from cannabis smoking, such as feeing high or impaired, but they did not inhibit tolerability. In general, side effects and mood changes were inconsequential.

    In addition, the authors said further research could probe whether adding the lowest effective dose of cannabis to another analgesic drug might lead to more effective neuropathic pain treatment for patients who otherwise are treatment-resistant.

    Source: The Times Of India © 2008 Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. (27/06/08)

    Using medical marijuana for Multiple Sclerosis, and other diseases, can cause a huge range of adverse effects
    The use of medical marijuana to relieve pain and other disease symptoms can cause a huge range of adverse effects, say researchers with the University of B.C. and McGill University.

    Researchers analyzed 31 studies from around the world conducted over the past 40 years and found that while nearly 97 per cent of adverse events were not serious or life-threatening, medicinal marijuana users still have an 86-per-cent increase in the rate of non-serious adverse effects, such as drowsiness and dizziness, compared to non-users.

    The study published in today's Canadian Medical Association Journal found the risk of suffering serious, adverse effects requiring hospitalization is not elevated in medicinal marijuana users, compared to non-users.

    However, studies on patients taking marijuana have shown that rarely, serious effects have been documented, including multiple sclerosis relapses, convulsions, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders, urinary infections, cancer tumour progression and psychiatric disorders.

    Research on recreational marijuana users shows they have an increased risk for psychosis and cancer, but the authors say no one should assume that the same effects would apply to those using it for medicinal purposes, due to different delivery systems and doses.

    Dr. Jean-Paul Collet, one of the study authors who is a UBC professor and pediatrician leading clinical research at B.C. Children's Hospital, said in an interview that because of the small numbers of cases and patients, it's impossible to say whether the serious effects were directly related to the cannabis products.

    "There is statistical validity to the non-serious effects like nervousness, paranoia, hallucinations, dizziness and anxiety. But it would be incorrect to talk about cannabis medicines causing an excess risk of death at this point. We cannot make any conclusions about any of the serious events. We need more information and more research in order to see whether there are any trends," said Collet, who worked at McGill University when the study was undertaken.

    Since all the studies analyzed were short term (median of two weeks) the effects of long term use are poorly understood and high-quality trials are desperately needed.

    "The use of these products is going up exponentially and doctors who prescribe them want and need to know if they are safe or whether they may create more problems," he said, adding "Health Canada is very much in favour of research documenting risks and benefits."-

    As of a few months ago, 2,432 people in Canada were legally registered as medicinal marijuana users. It's used to ease chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, HIV-associated anorexia, and pain from multiple sclerosis, arthritis or cancer.

    Source: The Vancouver Sun © Vancouver Sun 2008 (17/06/08)

    New South Wales to trial medical cannabis

    Doctors will prescribe cannabis-based drugs to cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS patients in a planned NSW Government trial.

    NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher will write to Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon in the next few weeks for permission to import and trial a drug expected to be Sativex, which delivers cannabis compounds through an oral spray.

    "While the Iemma Government is opposed to the legalisation of marijuana, we do support a therapeutic trial of a cannabis-based drug," a spokeswoman for Ms Meagher said.

    "We want the trial to start as soon as possible. However the support of the Rudd Government would be needed to get TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration] approval of the drug for use in the trial. We're hopeful the Government will approve."

    The Australian Medical Association welcomed the trial.

    "We believe medicinal cannabis may be of benefit in HIV-related wasting and cancer-related wasting," said chairman of the association's public health committee Dr John Gullotta, adding that it might also relieve nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

    The Cancer Council NSW welcomed the move.

    Ms Meagher may also ask for approval for other cannabis-based drugs.

    UK company GW Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Sativex, grows cannabis then extracts cannabinoids CBD and THC. "The formulation is believed to enhance the pain relief of THC while modulating the unwanted psychotropic and other THC-related side effects, such as tachycardia [rapid heartbeat]," the company says.

    Source: © Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2007 (19/05/08)

    Inhaled Cannabis Reduces Central And Peripheral Neuropathic Pain, Study Says
    Cannabis significantly reduces neuropathic pain compared to placebo and is well tolerated by patients with chronic pain conditions, according to clinical trial data to be published in The Journal of Pain.

    Investigators at the University of California at Davis, in conjunction with the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR), assessed the efficacy of inhaled cannabis on pain intensity among 38 patients with central and/or peripheral neuropathic pain in a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.

    Researchers reported that smoking low-grade (3.5 percent THC) and mid-grade (7 percent THC) equally reduced patients’ perception of spontaneous pain.

    "A significant reduction in a 100-point visual analog scale of pain intensity per minute was noted from both 3.5 percent and 7 percent cannabis compared to placebo,” the authors wrote. “Separate appraisals using the patient global score and multidimensional eleven-point neuropathic pain scale also revealed that both active agents alleviated pain compared with placebo.”

    Investigators added: “No participant withdrew because of tolerability issues. Subjects receiving active agent endorsed a ‘good drug effect’ more than a ‘bad drug effect.'”

    They concluded: “In the present experiment, cannabis reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness equally. Thus, as with opioids, cannabis does not rely on a relaxing or tranquilizing effect, but rather reduces both the core component of nociception (nerve pain) and the emotional aspect of the pain experience to an equal degree.”

    The study is the second clinical trial conducted by CMCR investigators to conclude that inhaled cannabis significantly reduces chronic neuropathy, a condition that is typically unresponsive to both opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.

    Source: “A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of cannabis cigarettes in neuropathic pain,” - Journal of Pain (12/05/08)

    Marijuana Use Among Multiple Sclerosis Patients Raises Risk for Cognitive, Mood Problems
    Multiple sclerosis patients who smoke marijuana in search of symptom relief are more likely to suffer cognitive shortfalls and mood disorders, new Canadian research suggests.

    A slowing down in the ability to process and remember information is one significant side effect, as is a rise in the rate of depression and anxiety.

    "This is a small study, so our findings are preliminary, but the bottom line is that multiple sclerosis patients who smoke cannabis appear to be at an increased risk for cognitive issues, particularly with respect to the speed of their thinking," said study author Dr. Anthony Feinstein, a professor of psychiatry with the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre's department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

    Feinstein's observations are published in the Feb. 13 online edition of Neurology and are focused exclusively on the impact of smoking marijuana illegally obtained by patients themselves. Medically prescribed marijuana was not studied.

    The authors noted that a "significant minority" of multiple sclerosis patients smoke marijuana to combat the tingling, numbness, blindness and paralysis that can accompany the progressive and often disabling nervous system disease.

    However, Feinstein's team stressed that scientists have yet to definitively prove that the psychoactive substance -- long linked to psychosis, anxiety and delirium among healthy users -- provides a measurable benefit to the more than 400,000 Americans and 2.5 million people worldwide who suffer from the disease.

    The researchers therefore assessed the experience of 140 Toronto-based MS outpatients, 10 of whom had smoked the drug at least once in the previous month and were considered regular marijuana users.

    All the patients -- three-quarters of them women -- underwent cognitive and mental health exams by a neurologist and a neuro-psychiatrist. Interviews were also conducted to assess disease severity and course, medications being used, and current disability.

    Feinstein and his team observed that while pot smokers were younger, there were no differences between marijuana users and nonusers in terms of gender, education, or MS disease course or duration.

    However, MS patients who used marijuana were found to perform 50 percent slower on tests tracking information-processing speed and were more likely than nonusers to have a mental disability of some kind.

    Marijuana use was also associated with a greater risk for being depressed or experiencing anxiety. However, the authors were not able to determine whether the drug had triggered such conditions, or if patients had sought out marijuana to help deal with a preexisting emotional issue.

    They nonetheless cautioned that smoking marijuana might further raise the risk for experiencing the kind of neuro-psychological impairment that typically occurs among 40 percent to 65 percent of all MS patients.

    Feinstein said that he next hopes to gather a much larger pool of patients, while exploring possible differences in the health impact of street-purchased marijuana versus prescribed cannabis.

    Meanwhile, Dr. Marshall Keilson, director of neurology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., said he thinks it best to proceed on a case-by-case basis.

    "There are some MS patients who are emotionally disabled from their disease, and if we can use cannabis to help them feel better about the world or life, we should," he said. "We need to always err on the side of doing what's best for our patients. And I don't necessarily believe there is a permanent damage to the brain, based on occasional marijuana use. If they're smoking 10 times a day, yes, there will be damage done. But this goes for excessive alcohol use, too. So, I think we're going to end up somewhere in the middle with this."

    Source: US News and World Report Copyright © 2008 ScoutNews, LLC. (14/02/08)

    Dutch firm eyes cannabis pill in 5 years
    Drug company Echo Pharmaceuticals expects to sell the world's first cannabis pill within five years, targeting a 4 billion euros ($5.85 billion) global market, its chief executive said.

    The privately-held Dutch company faces competition from Canada's Cannasat which is also developing a pill. In 2005, Canada became the first country in the world to approve a cannabis-based spray produced by Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals Plc as a treatment for multiple sclerosis patients.

    U.S. regulators granted approval for a clinical trial for GW's under-the-tongue spray called Sativex, but the company said in July that European regulators had requested a further clinical study before approval.

    Echo said it will start clinical studies and trials of its pill, to be marketed as Namisol, in the first half of 2008.

    "The global cannabis-based drugs market could be worth 4 billion euros," Echo Pharmaceuticals Chief Executive Officer Geert Woerlee told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

    "As an early adopter we could get 20-30 percent market share."

    He said studies showed that cannabis-based drugs may be effective for diseases like Parkinson's, MS and migraine and could also help patients with Alzheimer's.

    The Netherlands has tolerated the sale of cannabis in coffee shops for decades and in 2003 became the world's first country to make it available as a prescription drug in pharmacies to treat chronic pain, nausea and loss of appetite in cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis patients.

    Cannabis has a long history of medicinal use. It was used as a Chinese herbal remedy around 5,000 years ago, while Britain's Queen Victoria is said to have taken cannabis tincture for menstrual pains.

    "The big advantage of administering cannabis via a pill is that the drug is adopted easier by the body compared to alternatives," Woerlee said.

    The cannabis for Echo's pill will come from a Dutch grower with the permission of the Dutch government, which said in November it wanted to promote the development of cannabis-based medicine and will extend its availability in pharmacies by five years to allow more scientific research.

    Echo Pharmaceuticals, based in Weesp close to Amsterdam, has secured 3 million euros from a private investor to get the drug to Phase II studies. It then hopes to team up with a company or investor to bring the pill to the market.

    "All options are open then," Woerlee said, declining to say whether he preferred a financial or pharmaceutical partner or an initial public offering.

    He said bringing a drug to the market normally takes about five years but he was hoping to take the drug on faster track.

    "In fact we have an easy case as the effects of the drug have been known for thousands of years," he said.

    Source: © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008 (24/01/08)

    The endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in multiple sclerosis and in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis
    The ability of cannabinoids to modulate both inflammatory and degenerative neuronal damage prompted investigations on the potential benefits of such compounds in multiple sclerosis (MS) and in animal models of this disorder.

    Here we measured endocannabinoid levels, metabolism and binding, and physiological activities in 26 patients with MS (17 females, aged 19–43 years), 25 healthy controls and in mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a preclinical model of MS.

    Our results show that MS and EAE are associated with significant alterations of the endocannabinoid system. We found that anandamide (AEA), but not 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), was increased in the CSF of relapsing MS patients. AEA concentrations were also higher in peripheral lymphocytes of these patients, an effect associated with increased synthesis and reduced degradation of this endocannabinoid. Increased synthesis, reduced degradation, and increased levels of AEA were also detected in the brains of EAE mice in the acute phase of the disease, possibly accounting for its anti-excitotoxic action in this disorder.

    Accordingly, neurophysiological recordings from single neurons confirmed that excitatory transmission in EAE slices is inhibited by CB1 receptor activation, while inhibitory transmission is not.

    Our study suggests that targeting the endocannabinoid system might be useful for the treatment of MS.

    Source: Brain Copyright © 2007 Guarantors of Brain (27/09/07)

    Inhaling cannabis without the smoke

    Vapourising cannabis leaves instead of burning them can release the drug's active ingredient just as effectively — while avoiding the harmful toxins inhaled through smoking the drug, according to a pilot study.

    The result could be good news for those who choose to use marijuana medicinally.

    The potential benefits of marijuana include pain relief for multiple-sclerosis sufferers, a treatment for glaucoma, as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients and an anti-nausea agent for people on chemotherapy. But smoking isn't a good method of drug delivery because the harmful effects — such as lung cancer and heart diseaseoutweigh the likely merits of marijuana for all but terminal cases.

    Rather than smoking, some use the leaves to make tea or cakes for consumption. But this means that the active agents are metabolised by the liver rather than entering the bloodstream unaltered. Others have focused on extracting active ingredients such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and delivering them alone in a pill or oral spray. However, many think that the isolated ingredients are not as effective as the whole plant, and it is more difficult to customise the dose for each individual with a pill.

    Hot stuff

    Donald Abrams of the University of California, San Francisco, and his team decided to investigate the benefits of the 'Volcano', a commercially available vaporiser. The device heats marijuana leaves to a temperature between 180 and 200 °C so that THC is released from oils on the surface of the leaf but no actual combustion takes place.

    Previous studies have shown that harmful toxins released through smoking cannabis such as carbon monoxide, benzene and a host of compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (many of which are known carcinogens) are not produced by such devices.

    Abrams' study is the first to compare the effects of smoking and vaporising cannabis on human subjects. "We were able to deliver more-or-less equivalent amounts of THC into the bloodstream," he says. The main difference between the two delivery methods was that THC seemed to be absorbed into the bloodstream faster when using the vaporiser. "The pharmacological and physiological effects were comparable," he says, although a larger study would be needed to prove that they are biologically equivalent.

    Slow burn

    The first studies to highlight the advantages of using vaporisers for cannabis were published more than five years ago, but the pace of research has been slow, partly because there is only one source of research-approved marijuana in the United States — the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — which critics accuse of dictating research along a political agenda. A legal ruling this February recommended that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) end NIDA's monopoly on the production of marijuana for research approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and by the DEA.

    Laura Bell of the Multiple Sclerosis Society in the UK says that her society supports cannabinoid research for people with multiple sclerosis. "Smoking cannabis results in exposure to many toxic chemicals," she says. "We welcome research into better and safer delivery methods."

    Cannabis leaf is not the only substrate suited to a vaporiser. Other herbal preparations, such as eucalyptus and chamomile can also be used, or any plant with medicinal properties in the volatile compounds of its leaves.

    Source: [email protected] ©2007 Nature Publishing Group (12/05/07)

    Pharmos pain drug produces mixed results
    Pharmos Corporation has reported mixed results from its phase IIa trial of the effects of intravenous cannabinor against post-operative pain in third molar dental extraction.

    The lowest dose of cannabinor, a CB2 agonist, produced a statistically significant decrease in pain versus placebo, as measured by the primary endpoint. However, this drug effect was not seen in the higher dose groups. Pharmos said this was an unexpected pattern of results and it will continue to explore possible explanations.

    Cannabinor activates the CB2 receptor, which is involved with pain relief, without activating the CB1 receptor, which is associated with the psychotropic effects caused by cannabis.

    Pharmos recently completed a separate phase IIa study of intravenous cannabinor in experimentally induced pain in healthy volunteers. As previously reported, a 48mg dose of the drug was not active in reducing capsaicin-induced pain, the primary endpoint, but it was active in reducing the pain reaction to pressure-induced and heat-induced pain in normal skin.

    "We are encouraged by the analgesic signal of cannabinor in the nociceptive pain study, but the pattern of the results is not that easily interpreted. Taken together with the results from the phase IIa experimentally induced pain study, the data do suggest that cannabinor has analgesic properties in acute pain models and the potential to be active in the targeted indications of neuropathic pain and chronic nociceptive pain where the drug would be given chronically," said Arnon Aharon, senior director of Clinical Development.

    Pharmos is developing its CB2 agonists as treatments for chronic pain and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

    Source: Pharmaceutical Business Review ©2007 Business Review

    Cannabis could hold the key to ending multiple sclerosis misery
    Researchers investigating the role of cannabinoids - chemical substances contained within cannabis – in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), have found they could significantly enhance therapy, not only by reducing nerve damage and erratic nerve impulses, but perhaps even by hindering development of the condition.

    The findings, published online in Nature Medicine demonstrates for the first time how cannabis might actually slow down the progression of MS and could have major implications for the estimated 2.5 million patients worldwide.

    Using a mouse model, a team of UK, European, Japanese and US scientists, led by David Baker, Professor of Neuroimmunology at Queen Mary, University of London, found that doses of the active component within cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could significantly inhibit the development and severity of MS.

    Cannabis works because it stimulates molecules known as cannabinoid receptors within the body. The group had previously reported that THC could alleviate disease symptoms, and also save nerves from the damaging effects of the disease - thus potentially, via the cannabinoid receptor CB1, slowing down the development of progressive disability. They had not previously examined the influence of cannabinoids on immune aspects of the disease.

    Now their most recent study has successfully separated the roles of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 on neurons and T cells, and investigated their effect in controlling central nervous system autoimmunity. It showed that CB1 receptor expression by nerves in the brain, but not T cells, could suppress the development of an experimental MS-like disease, by stimulating the release of anti-inflammatory molecules, whilst in contrast direct stimulation of CB2 receptors by T cells was also able to control inflammation associated with the condition. This suggests that cannabis-like drugs may have the potential to block the autoimmune response which drives disease development.

    Professor David Baker said: “Whilst targeting CB1 receptors for therapy runs the risk of causing the unwanted “high” to achieve these effects, we can get the same result by targeting CB2 receptors, which avoids these risks. Therefore, we can start to think about using new drugs that harness the potential medical benefits that cannabis has to offer but move away from the issues over the legality and recreational use of the plant product”.

    Source: Queen Mary, University of London

    Study Says Marijuana Could Be Wonder Drug
    A new study in the journal Neurology is being hailed as unassailable proof that marijuana is a valuable medicine. It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine -- and US drug policy -- that we still need "proof" of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years.

    The study, from the University of California at San Francisco, found smoked marijuana to be effective at relieving the extreme pain of a debilitating condition known as peripheral neuropathy. It was a study of HIV patients, but a similar type of pain caused by damage to nerves afflicts people with many other illnesses including diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Neuropathic pain is notoriously resistant to treatment with conventional pain drugs. Even powerful and addictive narcotics like morphine and OxyContin often provide little relief. This study leaves no doubt that marijuana can safely ease this type of pain.

    As all marijuana research in the United States must be, the new study was conducted with government-supplied marijuana of notoriously poor quality. So it probably underestimated the potential benefit.

    This is all good news, but it should not be news at all. In the 40-odd years I have been studying the medicinal uses of marijuana, I have learned that the recorded history of this medicine goes back to ancient times and that in the 19th century it became a well-established Western medicine whose versatility and safety were unquestioned. From 1840 to 1900, American and European medical journals published over 100 papers on the therapeutic uses of marijuana, also known as cannabis.

    Of course, our knowledge has advanced greatly over the years. Scientists have identified over 60 unique constituents in marijuana, called cannabinoids, and we have learned much about how they work. We have also learned that our own bodies produce similar chemicals, called endocannabinoids.

    The mountain of accumulated anecdotal evidence that pointed the way to the present and other clinical studies also strongly suggests there are a number of other devastating disorders and symptoms for which marijuana has been used for centuries; they deserve the same kind of careful, methodologically sound research. While few such studies have so far been completed, all have lent weight to what medicine already knew but had largely forgotten or ignored: Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, spasticity, appetite loss, certain types of pain, and other debilitating symptoms. And it is extraordinarily safe -- safer than most medicines prescribed every day. If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

    The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling to isolate cannabinoids and synthesise analogs, and to package them in non-smokable forms. In time, companies will almost certainly come up with products and delivery systems that are more useful and less expensive than herbal marijuana. However, the analogs they have produced so far are more expensive than herbal marijuana, and none has shown any improvement over the plant nature gave us to take orally or to smoke.

    We live in an antismoking environment. But as a method of delivering certain medicinal compounds, smoking marijuana has some real advantages: The effect is almost instantaneous, allowing the patient, who after all is the best judge, to fine-tune his or her dose to get the needed relief without intoxication. Smoked marijuana has never been demonstrated to have serious pulmonary consequences, but in any case the technology to inhale these cannabinoids without smoking marijuana already exists as vapourizers that allow for smoke-free inhalation.

    Hopefully the UCSF study will add to the pressure on the US government to rethink its irrational ban on the medicinal use of marijuana -- and its destructive attacks on patients and caregivers in states that have chosen to allow such use. Rather than admit they have been mistaken all these years, federal officials can cite "important new data" and start revamping outdated and destructive policies. The new Congress could go far in establishing its bona fides as both reasonable and compassionate by immediately moving on this issue.

    Such legislation would bring much-needed relief to millions of Americans suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other debilitating illnesses.

    Source: Boston Globe © 2007 The New York Times Company

    People with MS welcome cannabis trials
    People with multiple sclerosis are backing a Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital study into whether cannabis will help them cope with the condition.

    The CUPID study will involve 500 patients aged from 18 to 65 from health centres from across the country. At least 20 will be from the hospital.

    It will test whether cannabis extract taken in pill form can help slow the progress of multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease of the central nervous system.

    Two thirds of those taking part will receive the drug while the remaining third will be given a placebo. Patients will attend the N&N every six months and will undergo clinical assessment and scans to check the progress of their disease over four-years.

    Those taking part include Geoffrey Harris, 51, who has been taking the pills since October. He has had MS for five years and lobbied his GP and N&N consultant to let him take the pills on a trial basis after reading about the benefits of cannabis for the condition. Mr Harris, a mechanical engineer who lives with wife Amanda and son Oliver, 10, in North Cove, near Lowestoft, said everyone with MS should have the chance to take the pills.

    He said: “I have been taking the capsules for a few months and have noticed I feel much brighter and more confident. My friends and family have noticed a real difference in the way I walk and they say I look different too.

    “With MS, there is often a lot of depression and tiredness. Although I still feel fatigued, I don't feel down as much as I did.

    “It is brilliant that I am taking these pills and they are proving to have an affect. Everyone should have access to these pills and to me it is not good enough that they are not available for any one with MS on the NHS.”

    More than 1,000 people have MS in Norfolk. Many cannot move about independently and suffer symptoms including muscle weakness and poor co-ordination.

    Four years ago, another Norfolk trial of cannabis-based medication produced evidence of its potential. That research, carried out by Dr Willy Notcutt at his pain clinic at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, involved 34 patients with MS, spinal cord injury and other conditions causing severe pain, who had not responded well to other medication.Of the group,, 28 said the cannabis-based drugs reduced pain and improved their sleep.

    Dr Martin Lee, neurology consultant at the N&N, said: “The new study is aimed at patients with progressive symptoms of the disease.”

    Source: Norwich Evening News Copyright © 2007 Archant Regional. All rights reserved.

    Cannasat Therapeutics Inc. announces NRC-IRAP funding for CAT 210
    Cannasat Therapeutics Inc. is pleased to announce a contribution agreement with the National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program ("NRC-IRAP") for pre-clinical research and development of CAT 210. CAT 210 is Cannasat's second product in development that targets the treatment of neuropathic pain with cannabinoids.

    Pre-clinical studies for CAT 210 will be conducted at the Pain Centre at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). Early stage formulation work for CAT 210 will take place at the Cannasat's R&D facilities in Edmonton, Canada.

    "We are very pleased to be sharing the costs of this project with NRC-IRAP for development of CAT 210 as part of our R&D efforts in developing novel cannabinoid drug products. Development of CAT 210 expands our pipeline of cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals for neuropathic pain, a condition for which there is a large underserved market. We are also very excited to be working with the Pain Centre at McGill, one of the world's leading institutions in pain research," states David Hill, Chief Executive Officer of Cannasat Therapeutics.

    Neuropathic pain arises from injury to the peripheral or central nervous system and is associated with trauma or diseases such as diabetes, herpes zoster, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Affecting approximately 26 million people worldwide, neuropathic pain is one of the most difficult forms of pain to treat - only 50 per cent of patients respond to current treatment options. As such, there is a large unmet need for new therapies.


    Cannasat Therapeutics is researching the therapeutic benefits of cannabis and developing new cannabinoid pharmaceutical products. Cannasat is pursuing two complementary business strategies. The first consists of development of novel cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical products through application of drug delivery technologies to be introduced to the market through the traditional regulatory drug approval process. The second is to promote medicinal cannabis research and education with Cannasat's business partner, Prairie Plant Systems Inc., the only government licensed grower and distributor of medicinal cannabis in Canada.

    Source: Cannasat Therapeutics Inc.

    Cannabis therapy 'may be harmful'
    Cannabis extracts used in medicines may worsen symptoms rather than have the beneficial effects that are intended, it has been reported.

    Cannabis extracts can be harmful because of the unpredictable way the body reacts, New Scientist said.

    Research detailed to the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies found boosting levels of some cannabinoids worsened epilepsy and Alzheimer's.

    Experts said it was hard to target the drug at specific parts of the body.

    Some compounds in cannabis interfere with a natural signalling system in the brain, nerves and immune system.

    The signalling system, which produces its own cannabinoids, plays a role in conditions such as MS, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease.

    Extra cannabinoids, from smoking cannabis or from medications, can therefore have a significant effect, researchers suggest.

    Vincenzo Di Marzo, of Italy's National Research Council, told the conference that he had found boosting the level of one natural cannabinoid, andandamide, in rats initially appeared to protect the animals from memory loss and nerve degeneration.

    But if the rise was prolonged, the cannabinoid could be ineffective, or even damaging.

    Beat Lutz, of the University of Mainz in Germany, found a another paradox in models of epilepsy in mice.

    The same cannabinoid is normally produced by the body during an epileptic seizure to produce a calming effect.

    But he found boosting levels could actually worsen seizures.


    He said he believed the reason for the findings was that there were cannabis receptors on two different types of neuron populations which the drug could affect.

    In one group, exposure to cannabinoids increases activity while in the other, it inhibits it.

    Dr Lutz said this meant that depending on which one they hit, the effect was different.

    Professor David Baker, from University College London, who has studied the impact of cannabis extracts in treating multiple sclerosis, said: "The problem with cannabis is that there's no way of targeting the drug to any particular place."

    He said the hope was that scientists could manipulate the nervous system by managing the way cannabis compounds are released just as the depression drug Prozac does for serotonin by delaying release.

    The only cannabis-based drug which can be used in the UK is a treatment for MS called Sativex.

    It has been granted a special licence meaning it can only be used if the doctor takes responsibility for prescribing it.

    The drug, produced by GW Pharmaceuticals, is a mouth spray containing two chemicals found in cannabis, THC and cannabidiol.

    However, it is made using plant cannabinoids, rather than those found in the body.

    Source: BBC News Copywrite BBC 2006

    Cannabis effects on MS trialled
    Patients are being recruited for a trial to determine whether chemicals in cannabis can slow the impact of multiple sclerosis.

    Evidence suggests the drug may relieve symptoms but the three-year national trial is also to determine whether it slows the disease's progress.

    It is estimated that 100,000 people in the UK have multiple sclerosis (MS).

    Prof John Zajicek, of the Peninsula Medical School and Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, will lead the research.

    One component of cannabis, called THC, is now being tested in a trial, funded by a £2m grant from the Medical Research Council, along with charities the MS Society and MS Trust.

    "This trial will build on our previous study which, coupled with our work in the laboratory, suggested that THC could have a protective effect on nerves," said Prof Zajicek.

    "Multiple Sclerosis is a very unpredictable disease. Currently there are few medicines which are effective in treating MS and none have been shown to have any effect in the progressive stages of the disease."

    MS is caused when the patient's own body damages the protective covering of the nerves - affecting signals from the brain.

    Progressive MS is thought to be caused by damage to the nerves themselves.

    'Far-reaching implications'

    "If this study demonstrates that cannaboids do have a longer term effect on the progression of disability, there are potentially far-reaching implications, not only for the health of people with MS, but also for those with other neurodegenerative conditions."

    Prof Zajicek is trying to recruit 500 patients with progressive MS through 30 centres across the UK.

    The research follows on from a previous trial carried out by the same team, which focused on testing the benefit of cannabis derivatives over a 15-week and 12-month period.

    Derivatives of cannabis are known as cannaboids.

    The study is taking place in collaboration with Professor Alan Thompson at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (part of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) and Institute of Neurology, University College London.

    Potential patients interested in taking part in the study should call 0800 0153430, or e-mail: [email protected] 

    Source: BBC Health Copywrite BBC 2006

    Could hemp be the hot new healthy ingredient?
    The health-enhancing properties of hemp have come under the spotlight this month with the launch of a drink containing hemp-blossom syrup (Cannabis sativa) in the UK, which is also being tested by multiple sclerosis patients for its potential to alleviate leg pain and spasms.

    The drink, called C-Ice, was develop by Austrian company Thurella and launched by distributor Seagull in Switzerland, Austria and Germany in 2004. Peter Vurm, co-owner of Seagull, told that it is now in 25 countries, of which the UK is one of the latest.

    Although the packaging contains the words ‘sweet cannabis tea', Vurm was clear to point out that that it contains no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical responsible for the psychotropic effects of marijuana.

    Harinder Kohli, commercial director of C-Ice in the UK, told that the syrup is a natural immune enhancer and contains protein, omega oils, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals – in addition to the antioxidant properties of the black tea.

    For the last three months, members of the Milton Keynes Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Group have been drinking two 250ml servings of C-Ice each day. Kohli said that 69 to 75 per cent of participants have reported help with symptoms – although she said that some of this might be due to their expectations. Details of the study design were not available.

    But aside from MS patients and experimental types for whom the cannabis leaf on the packaging will act as a magnet, is the mainstream British consumers really ready do away with the prejudices and embrace hemp as a healthy ingredient?

    “There are going to be a certain amount of psychological hurdles to get over,” said Kohli. “But we're not saying ‘drink this and get stoned', but ‘learn with us and be enlightened'.”

    She said that the company was careful to clear the regulatory pathway to the launch, sending the Home Office some samples of its own accord in order to obtain the authorisation to proceed.

    There has been a huge amount of attention to the product since its roll out on June 6, with several of the UK broadsheets carrying news items on it today.

    For Kohli, this bodes well. Of the product, she said: “We have a lot of belief in it, and we think it could be huge.”

    She certainly believes attitudes to hemp should lighten up. “It's a shame it gets negative press – it is amazing you can get all these properties from a plant. There is no need to add anything to the tea. It's all natural.”

    Source: Food © 2000/2006 – Decision News Media SAS – All Rights Reserved

    Marijuana-like Compounds Suppress The Immune Response
    A group of Japanese scientists has discovered that cannabinoids can cause some white blood cells to lose their ability to migrate to the sites of infection and inflammation. These findings, which appear in the May 5 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, could have potential use in the development of novel anti-inflammatory drugs.

    The cannabinoids are a group of chemicals that include marijuana. These compounds bind to and activate the body's cannabinoid receptors. There are two types of cannabinoid receptor: the peripheral cannabinoid receptor (CB2) which is predominantly found in immune cells, and the central cannabinoid receptor (CB1) which occurs in the central nervous system.

    Recent studies have suggested that CB2 may be involved in a wide range of physiologic phenomena related to immunity, although research on this function is still at an early stage. Among the possible immunological roles for CB2 is an involvement in the initiation of white blood cell migration to sites of infection and inflammation.

    In the Journal of Biological Chemistry study, which was featured as a "Paper of the Week", Yumi Tohyama and colleagues used an in vitro model of blood cell migration to study the involvement of CB2 in the recruitment white blood cells. They found that treating the blood cells with compounds that bind to CB2 suppresses the migration of the cells. When they examined the cells, they discovered that they had lost their ability to develop a front/rear polarity, which is something they need to effectively migrate to sites of infection and inflammation.

    Because cannabinoids seem to suppress activated white blood cells, Tohyama believes they could have a potential use in the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

    The Journal of Biological Chemistry's Papers of the Week is an online feature which highlights the top one percent of papers received by the journal. Brief summaries of the papers and explanations of why they were selected for this honour can be accessed directly from the home page of the Journal of Biological Chemistry online at

    The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) is a nonprofit scientific and educational organisation with over 11,000 members in the United States and internationally. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, nonprofit research institutions, and industry.

    Founded in 1906, the Society is based in Bethesda, Maryland, on the campus of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The Society's primary purpose is to advance the sciences of biochemistry and molecular biology through its publications, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Journal of Lipid Research, Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, and the holding of scientific meetings.

    For more information about ASBMB, see the Society's website at 

    Source: Science Daily Copyright © 1995-2006 ScienceDaily LLC

    Memory, speed of thinking gets worse over time with marijuana use
    Memory, speed of thinking and other cognitive abilities get worse over time with marijuana use, according to a new study published in the March 14, 2006, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

    The study found that frequent marijuana users performed worse than non-users on tests of cognitive abilities, including divided attention (ability to pay attention to more than one stimulus at a time) and verbal fluency (number of words generated within a time limit). Those who had used marijuana for 10 years or more had more problems with their thinking abilities than those who had used marijuana for five to 10 years. All of the marijuana users were heavy users, which was defined as smoking four or more joints per week.

    "We found that the longer people used marijuana, the more deterioration they had in these cognitive abilities, especially in the ability to learn and remember new information," said study author Lambros Messinis, PhD, of the Department of Neurology of the University Hospital of Patras in Patras, Greece. "In several areas, their abilities were significant enough to be considered impaired, with more impairment in the longer-term users than the shorter-term users."

    The study involved people ages 17 to 49 taking part in a drug abuse treatment program in Athens, Greece. There were 20 long-term users, 20 shorter-term users and 24 control subjects who had used marijuana at least once in their lives but not more than 20 times and not in the past two years. Those who had used any other class of drugs, such as cocaine or stimulants, during the past year or for more than three months throughout their lives were not included in the study. Before the tests were performed, all participants had to abstain from marijuana for at least 24 hours.

    The marijuana users performed worse in several cognitive domains, including delayed recall, recognition and executive functions of the brain. For example, on a test measuring the ability to make decisions, long-term users had 70 percent impaired performance, compared to 55 percent impaired performance for shorter-term users and 8 percent impaired performance for non-users. In a test where participants needed to remember a list of words that had been read to them earlier, the non-users remembered an average of 12 out of 15 words, the shorter-term users remembered an average of nine words and the long-term users remembered an average of seven words.

    The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 19,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, autism and multiple sclerosis.

    For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit

    Source: American Academy of Neurology

    Pot Smoking Could Raise Odds for Bladder Cancer
    Smoking marijuana may raise the risk for bladder cancer occurring relatively early in life, new research shows.

    "We noticed several younger patients who had developed transitional cell carcinoma were similar in that they all shared a history of marijuana smoking," senior study author and urologist Dr. Martha Terris, of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, said in a prepared statement.

    Her team's study of 52 men, aged 44 to 60, with transitional cell bladder cancer found that 88.5 percent of them had a history of smoking marijuana. Nearly 31 percent still smoked marijuana at the time of the study.

    "The literature has suggested that marijuana smoking increases the risk of head and neck cancer and lung malignancies, and that these tumors tend to develop earlier and behave more aggressively in marijuana smokers," Terris noted.

    Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for bladder cancer. This study suggests that smoking marijuana may be as bad or worse a risk factor.

    "Marijuana smoking might be an even more potent stimulator of malignant transformation in transitional epithelium [bladder lining] than tobacco smoking," the study authors wrote.

    The researchers noted that marijuana metabolites have a half-life in urine about five times greater than nicotine metabolites. This means that THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, stays in the bladder and urine for a long time. THC has been found to have both anti-tumor and tumor-producing properties.

    The study was published in the January issue of Urology.

    Terris suggested that when a doctor detects blood in a young patient's urine sample, the doctor should ask the patient about his or her marijuana use, and more strongly consider bladder cancer as a cause of the blood in the urine.

    Bladder cancer patients may also want to reconsider the use of marijuana to treat the side effects of chemotherapy, she said.

    "If they are getting chemotherapy for their bladder cancer and smoking marijuana to increase their appetite, they may be undoing the benefits of chemotherapy," Terris said.

    SOURCE: Medical College of Georgia, news release, Jan. 26, 2006 Copyright © 2006 ScoutNews LLC. All rights reserved.

    Pharmos Completes Phase I Cannabinor Study

    Pharmos Corporation announced today the Company has successfully completed a Phase I trial for cannabinor, a CB2-selective synthetic cannabinoid drug candidate that has been shown to have activity in preclinical animal models of various types of pain and several autoimmune diseases. The data indicate that cannabinor was safe and well tolerated with no severe adverse events in the escalating single dose safety trial. The Company plans to initiate a Phase IIa study during the second quarter of this year in patients experiencing post-operative pain following third molar extraction.

    The Phase I randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, intravenous, escalating single dose study enrolled 48 healthy male volunteers at the Harrison Clinical Research Unit in Munich, Germany. The clinical trial material was manufactured in the Company's GMP pilot facility in Rehovot, Israel. In addition to demonstrating safety and tolerability, the trial showed linear pharmacokinetics and dose-proportionality of exposure parameters between single doses consistent with existing preclinical experience.

    "We are pleased that the Phase I data demonstrated cannabinor to be safe and well tolerated in human patients and look forward to initiating the Phase II development of cannabinor in the second quarter," said Haim Aviv, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO. "During 2006, we will examine additional potential indications in Phase IIa feasibility trials before deciding on the indication with the highest probability of clinical and regulatory success."

    In addition to the ongoing clinical testing of cannabinor in an intravenous formulation, Pharmos is developing an oral formulation of the drug candidate to move into clinical development after initial observations of oral bioavailability are confirmed. An oral formulation will facilitate clinical development of cannabinor for chronic conditions such as neuropathic pain. Pending the outcome of the upcoming Phase IIa trials and the work on oral formulation, Pharmos plans to implement Phase IIb studies of cannabinor in 2007.

    Cannabinor is the first drug candidate to emerge from Pharmos' discovery program in synthetic CB2-selective cannabinoids. The Company intends to advance additional synthetic cannabinoids into clinical development. "The physiological importance of cannabinoid receptors and their signaling pathways is increasingly recognized in the scientific and medical communities," added Dr. Aviv. "Their impact on human health and disease is being studied in such diverse biological responses as pain, impulse control, inflammation, immunomodulation and obesity. We are excited by the therapeutic potential of our pipeline."

    Pharmos discovers and develops novel therapeutics to treat a range of indications including neurological and inflammatory disorders. The Company's core proprietary technology platform focuses on discovery and development of synthetic cannabinoid compounds. Cannabinor, the lead CB2-selective receptor agonist candidate, is scheduled for Phase II testing in pain indications during 2006. From the dextrocannabinoid family, the neuroprotective drug candidate dexanabinol completed a Phase IIa trial as a preventive agent against post-surgical cognitive impairment. Other compounds from Pharmos' proprietary synthetic cannabinoid library are in pre-clinical studies targeting pain, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other disorders. The Company's NanoEmulsion drug delivery system is in clinical-stage development for topical application of analgesic and anti-inflammatory agents.

    Statements made in this press release related to the business outlook and future financial performance of the Company, to the prospective market penetration of its drug products, to the development and commercialization of the Company's pipeline products and to the Company's expectations in connection with any future event, condition, performance or other matter, are forward-looking and are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements involve risks and uncertainties, which may cause results to differ materially from those set forth in these statements. Additional economic, competitive, governmental, technological, marketing and other factors identified in Pharmos' filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission could affect such results.

    Source: PR Newswire

    Cannabis truly helps multiple sclerosis patients
    Cannabis may loosen the stiff and spastic muscles of multiple sclerosis patients, and not just their minds, a follow-up study has found.

    The results contradict findings from the first phase of the study, where improvements seemed to be largely due to "good moods".

    “There does seem to be evidence of some benefit from cannabis in the longer term that we didn’t anticipate in the short term study,” says John Zajicek, at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, UK, and one of the research team.

    In 2003, Zajicek and his colleagues published results on the largest study to date of cannabinoids and MS. The trial included 630 advanced-stage MS patients who took either cannabinoid compounds or a placebo for 15 weeks.

    Compared with those on placebos, patients who received active compounds said they both felt less pain and less muscle spasticity – the spasms characteristic of this neurodegenerative disease.

    Good guess

    But physiotherapists using standard evaluations were unable to corroborate the patients' claims of improved mobility or muscle stiffness.

    The results were further complicated because about two thirds of the patients who received cannabis compounds, such as D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), guessed they had not received a placebo, due to the drugs effect on their mind.

    The knowledge that they were receiving an active compound, along with the mood-altering effects of THC, may have explained why subjects reported improvements.

    “If you’ve got a drug that elevates mood and makes people feel better, how can you be sure that it’s really affecting their underlying disease and their symptoms?” asks Zajicek.

    Marked improvement

    When the short-term study ended, however, the researchers gave all subjects the opportunity to continue their treatment for a full year. The team wanted to extend the study to gather information on the safety of long-term cannabinoid use.

    More than 500 patients agreed to stay on their original treatment. One group took pills of D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis. The second group received natural cannabis extract, and the third group took a placebo.

    At the end of the 12 month period, the patients were evaluated again using the same measures as in the first study. But this time, physiotherapists saw a marked improvement for subjects on active drugs. They had reduced muscle spasticity and an improved overall score for their level of disability.

    Zajicek is cautious about the implications of the study as it was not specifically designed to test the efficacy of drugs over 12 months. But the results do support animal research that shows cannabinoids may slow nerve cell death and protect against damage.

    The findings were presented at the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival, in Exeter, UK

    Source: news service © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd. (10/09/04)

    Brain's own cannabis compound protects against inflammation
    Some clinical studies have indicated that marijuana or its active cannabinoid ingredient alleviates symptoms of the inflammatory disease multiple sclerosis (MS). Also, researchers have found that the brain's natural "endocannabinoids" are released after brain injury and are believed to alleviate neuronal damage. However, scientists have not understood how such substances act within the brain's own immune system.

    Now, experiments by Oliver Ullrich and colleagues have pinpointed how one of the brain's endocannabinoids protects neurons from inflammation after such damage. They say their studies could lead to new drugs to treat the inflammation and brain degeneration from MS or other such disorders.

    In an article in the January 5, 2006, issue of Neuron, the researchers reported experiments showing how the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) protects brain cells from inflammation. Such a role in the brain's immune system is distinct from cannabinoids' effects on neuronal signaling that produce the behavioral effects of marijuana.

    When Ullrich and colleagues analyzed brain tissue from people with MS, they found elevated levels of AEA, compared to healthy tissue. And in studies with mouse brain slices, they found that inducing damage with a brain-cell-exciting chemical, called NMDA, caused an invasion of the brain's immune cells, called microglia, and an increase in AEA levels.

    Importantly, they found that adding AEA to such damaged brain tissue abolished inflammatory damage to the brain cells, but did not reduce the primary "excitotoxic" damage from the chemical. They found similar effects of AEA when they damaged the brain tissue by depriving it of oxygen and glucose.

    The researchers also found that when they used a drug to block the receptors on microglial cells by which AEA effects the cells, inflammatory damage was increased.

    The researchers also explored the mechanism by which AEA prevents inflammatory damage. They found that, when AEA plugs into its receptors on activated microglial cells, it basically activates a specific molecular signaling pathway that suppresses the production of inflammation-causing nitric oxide, which would otherwise cause brain injury.

    The researchers concluded that the release of AEA in injured brain tissue might act as a "gatekeeper" and an important "negative-feedback loop within the CNS [central nervous system] immune system needed to reduce the extent of the inflammatory response and to limit neurodegenerative immune reactions after primary brain damage.

    "Moreover, endocannabinoid signaling strongly suppresses attack of microglial cells on nondamaged neurons," they wrote, "suggesting also a physiological function of the endocannabinoid system in maintaining a protective and healthy CNS microenvironment."

    They also concluded that "the endocannabinoid system represents a local messenger system between the nervous and immune system and is obviously involved in the control of immune activation and neuroprotection. Therefore, elucidating the pathology of the endocannabinoid system during neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration might open new avenues of therapeutic interventions in the future."

    The researchers included Eva Eljaschewitsch, Christian Mawrin, Peter M. Schmidt, Regine Schneider-Stock and Oliver Ullrich of the Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg in Magdeburg, Germany; Anke Witting of the University of Washington in Seattle, WA; Thomas Lee, Heide Hoertnagl and Robert Nitsch of the Charité University Hospital Berlin in Berlin, Germany; Susanne Wolf of the Max-Delbrueck-Center of Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany; Cedric S. Raine of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, NY. This work was supported by the Research Network N2 of the State Saxony-Anhalt of Germany (O.U.) and a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to R.N., O.U., and R.S.S. and National Institutes of Health grants (NS 08952 and NS 11920) to C.S.R.

    Source: Eljaschewitsch et al.: "The Endogenous Cannabinoid Anandamide (AEA) Protects Neurons during CNS Inflammation by Induction of MKP-1 in Microglial Cells." Publishing in Neuron 49, 67–79,  DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2005.11.027 (05/01/06)

    Cannabis has medical benefits but needs further investigation, says report

    Medicines based on cannabis and its derivatives have the potential to treat a range of symptoms but need to be developed with the same care and regulation as other new drugs, says a report from the Royal College of Physicians.

    The report calls for more research into cannabis based medicines for a variety of clinical situations, including appetite loss, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis. It acknowledges also that cannabis-like substances may have a role in managing obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis and in helping people quit smoking. Clinical trials in these areas are warranted, it concludes.

    Some of the strongest evidence for the therapeutic potential of cannabis and its derivatives comes from research into multiple sclerosis. The report describes “convincing evidence” from animal models that cannabis can reduce spasticity and tremor and slow down the course of the disease. However, few randomised controlled trials have been carried out in humans, and longer studies are needed to provide clear evidence of the benefits in people, particularly on the progression of symptoms.

    The report, which examined the evidence relating to the medicinal uses of cannabis and its active ingredients, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, says that smoking cannabis should be avoided, as this carries similar risks to the lungs as smoking tobacco. Alternative methods of administration should be studied, including capsules and mouth sprays.

    Although concerns have been voiced about the development of dependence among people who use cannabis in trials, this has not been found to be a problem, says the report. Similarly, people who have been allowed to adjust the dose of tetrahydrocannabinol according to their symptoms have not found potential side effects—such as dizziness, reduced attention, and gastrointestinal symptoms—to be troublesome.

    Another major concern that has become evident from the recreational use of cannabis is the risk of psychoses, especially among young people. Young age and previous psychotic episodes should be relative contraindications to the use of cannabis-based medicines, the report concludes. It recognises, however, that the people most likely to receive such medicines will be older.

    Martin Wilkins, chairman of the working party and professor of clinical pharmacology at Imperial College London, said: “Cannabis-based medicines are an active area of research and may offer new treatments for the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, pain, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. It is appropriate that these medicines are examined and developed through carefully controlled clinical trials, in line with the regulations governing the approval of new drugs.” Cannabis and Cannabis-based Medicines: Potential Benefits and Risks for Health is at

    Source: © 2005 BMJ Publishing Group Ltd (17/12/05)

    Marijuana derivatives may provide MS treatment

    Marijuana derivatives or "cannabinoids" taken for one year for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) may reduce muscle spasms and other aspects of disability, results of a UK study suggest.

    Dr. J. P. Zajicek, from Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth and colleagues previously reported that cannabinoids taken for 14 weeks appeared to improve mobility and patients' perception of their MS symptoms. In an extension study, 80 percent of subjects agreed to continue on the medication for up to 52 weeks. The results are reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

    The analysis included more than 500 patients who were randomly assigned to receive various cannabinoids or an inactive "placebo."

    Treatment with delta-9-THC, a synthetic cannabinoid, seemed to relieve muscle spasms. In addition, patients treated with this drug and other cannabinoids reported improvements in sleep and pain.

    Zajicek's group concludes that "there is now an urgent need to construct a long-term study in progressive MS to establish whether delta-9-THC has a role in long-term disease."

    Dr. J. Killestein and Dr. B. M. J. Uitdehaag, writing in a related editorial, agree with Zajicek's team about the need for more long-term trials.

    The editorialists, from VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, add that "these trials should also focus on different cannabinoid products."

    SOURCE: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, (01/12/05)

    Cannabis 'could reverse psychosis'

    Australian researchers believe cannabis, a drug believed to increase the risk of psychosis, may also be able to reverse psychotic behaviour.

    Scientists at Melbourne's Monash University say they have found a chemical compound in cannabis, cannabidiol, that reverses drug-induced behavioural disturbances in mice.

    Use of cannabis had been linked with an increased risk of developing psychosis because of the effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which also gives users a high, researcher Leonora Long said.

    "The interesting thing is that you have these two compounds in the cannabis plant that produce opposing effects," Ms Long said.

    "One is liable to produce psychotic symptoms, while the other may be protective against psychosis.

    Cannabidiol may also help alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy and also pain associated with inflammatory disorders such as multiple sclerosis," she said.

    Ms Long said previous research had shown that THC produced behavioural deficiencies in rodents that mimicked symptoms of human psychosis.

    The researchers now plan to investigate the effects of cannabidiol and THC together in rats and mice to see how the two compounds interact and to mimic human consumption of cannabis.

    Source The Australian  © The Australian 2005 (01/12/05)

    The long-term effects of cannabis-based medicine will be studied. A study into the use of cannabis-based medicines in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients has been given a £2m grant. The Medical Research Council-funded trial will continue research on patients by the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth.......

    Full story please click the link above.(24/05/05)

    Cannabinoids Inhibit Degeneration

    Scientists in London have found that cannabinoids have a neuroprotective effect in the animal model of MS, EAE.

    Dr Price and colleagues at the Institute of Neurology found that mice which were deficient in the cannabinoid receptor CB1 tolerate inflammatory and excito toxic insults poorly and develop substantial neurodegeneration following immune attack in EAE.

    They suggest that, in addition to symptom management, cannabis may also slow the neurodegenerative processes that ultimately lead to chronic disability in Multiple Sclerosis .

    Pryce G, Ahmed Z, Hankey DJ, Jackson Si, Croxford JL, Pocock JM, Ledent C, Petzold A, Thompson AJ, Giovannoni G, Cuzner ML, Baker D. Department of Neuroinflammation, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK

    Source: Brain (22/07/03)

    MS Cannabis trial at Ipswich General Hospital

    A consultant at Ipswich Hospital is involved in groundbreaking new trials to see if cannabis really does relieve the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis .

    Trials are being conducted nationally by the Medical Research Council into the use of cannabis as a prescribed drug.

    Multiple Sclerosis patients have been campaigning for several years for the trials and some have even been taken to court for using the drug which they claim relieves the debilitating symptoms they have.

    But MS patient, Stephen Williams, of St Peters Road, Stowmarket, treated the news with some caution. He was diagnosed 16 years ago and said during that time his hopes had been raised too often only to be dashed when the treatment proved too expensive. The 52-year-old said, "The frustrating thing is being told that there is a major breakthrough but it has to go through five years of trials. So you sit and wait patiently and then you find you can't have it after all because it is too expensive."

    Mr Williams has been closely following tests of cannabis and spoke out in the Evening Star in September for the cannabis law to be reformed so he could use it to relieve the pain wracking his body.

    He said, "I have been checking the website of a pharmaceutical company (which is running trials) and they said that in most incidences they have had good results. Although there are still a lot of people that it does not help, it is helping more than they thought. When I was first diagnosed in 1986 the doctors told me not to worry and that there would be a cure by the end of the century that has been and gone. I am wary of it but now it is in Ipswich I will ask my GP if I can get involved."

    Bob Wake from Stradbroke, near Eye, was diagnosed with MS 14 years ago. At that time he said he never believed medical research would advance this far.

    He said, "I never thought I would see this. We always hoped that it would and various things have come up during that time. When I was diagnosed I did not think there would be anything for me and cannabis may not be the one but at least we can try."

    Mr Wake, 67, is involved in the East Anglian Branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and often gives talks to both MS patients and non-patients.

    He said, "From what I know, cannabis does not seem to be doing much harm. If you have MS you are willing to have a go at absolutely anything you don't know when you wake up each morning which part of you is never going to work again. When I have been to meetings and talked to people, they have said that as long as there would not be any terrible side effects they would try anything even if there was only a one in a thousand chance it would work. No two patients are the same and MS affects random sections of the brain. One person could be helped in a different way to another."

    Dr Stephen Wroe is a consultant neurologist at Ipswich Hospital and he has been involved in the trials. He was unavailable to comment today but it is believed that around 23 patients are actually taking part. If the trials are successful the treatment could be in place as early as 2004.

    For further information, refer to the Media Awareness Project article. (04/07/02)

    Cannabis trial launched in patients with MS

    The world’s biggest clinical trial of the cannabis plant got under way this week at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth; the trial is looking at the control of pain and tremors in Multiple Sclerosis . Twenty patients were given their first doses of capsules containing cannabis oil, tetra hydro cannabinol, or placebo. After three months, if all goes to plan, the trial will be slowly extended across the country, eventually taking in 660 participants in 40 centres.

    The cannabis in Multiple Sclerosis (CAMS) study is sponsored by the Medical Research Council and approved by the government, which has arranged for the drug to be imported from Switzerland. A parallel study will examine the effect of the drug on lower urinary tract symptoms.

    Patients will undergo up to five weeks of titration, followed by two months at a steady dose. "We’re looking for a dose that can help relieve symptoms with minimal side effects," said research registrar Dr Patrick Fox. "We find that few patients want to be stoned or high when they have to take the drug all the time."

    Patients who benefit from the treatment can opt to continue for a further nine months. They may legally take their medication home because each has been granted a licence by the Home Office to possess schedule 1 drugs. Participants have been advised not to drive during the study period.

    Cannabis has been a schedule 1 drug since 1971, when the World Health Organization pronounced it medically useless. Two years ago a House of Lords select committee argued that more research was necessary in view of widespread anecdotal reports of the drug’s efficacy in controlling pain and tremor, particularly in Multiple Sclerosis .

    The government has announced its willingness to amend drug laws if the benefits of cannabis can be shown. This would mean giving cannabis a legal status similar to morphine.

    The CAMS study is the fourth cannabis trial to begin in Britain in recent months. Three smaller phase II trials have been under way since the autumn—in Guernsey, Oxford, and Norfolk. The drug used in these trials is a sublingual spray, taken from plants grown by G W Pharmaceuticals in Kent. The researchers expect to extend these trials to 2000 patients over the next two years.

    Professor William Notcutt, who heads the trial at the James Paget Hospital, Gorleston, Norfolk, has enrolled not only people with Multiple Sclerosis but also patients with various chronic pain syndromes, such as neuralgia and lower back pain. "We’re looking at overall quality of life as well as pain relief," he said. "If a patient says they feel better since starting the drug, I’m not going to panic that some of that might be drug induced euphoria and cut their dose on moral grounds."

    For further information, refer to the 'BMJ general medical journal' article. (27/01/01)

    Cannabis derivative drugs may be made available to MS patients

    The government is clearing the way for the introduction of cannabis derivatives as NHS medicines to treat Multiple Sclerosis and relieve pain after operations if trials of two drugs prove successful. The Department of Health is to ask the National Institute For Clinical Excellence (NICE) to begin assessing next year whether the treatments are effective and worth the money they might cost the NHS. Ministers will today announce consultations on the scheme.

    The painkillers might be available on prescription in 2004 or 2005 if the process of trials, licensing and NHS approval is completed on time.

    One drug, cannabis-based medicinal extract, is an under-the-tongue spray being tested by GW Pharmaceuticals; the other is a tablet called Dronabinol, manufactured by Solvay Healthcare. Neither is expected to give the 'high' enjoyed by cannabis smokers.

    There have been anecdotal claims for years that smoking, infusing or eating cannabis can alleviate symptoms of MS including spasm, incontinence and pain.

    The new drugs may also help treat nausea, leading to speculation that cannabis derivatives could provide treatments for a wider range of medical conditions.

    The health analyses are being undertaken at the same time as a wider debate within government and police forces over the criminal uses of dope.

    The home secretary, David Blunkett, is downgrading cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug. While it still carries a possible two-year jail penalty for possession, a softly softly approach to its use has been controversially piloted in Lambeth, south London.

    There are thought to be about 100,000 people in Britain with MS, a disabling disease of the nervous system.

    David Harrison, spokesman for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, said yesterday: "If we are in a situation where we are going to have drugs approved which look as if they have a significant effect on helping alleviate symptoms, and it has been shown they can be safely used, we would want people to have access to them as soon as possible."

    But he issued a note of caution about the anecdotal evidence. "We know a lot of people who say 'cannabis is wonderful; nothing else does this job for me'. You hear less about those who try it and get horrible reactions.

    "We have always said people who are using it for medicinal purposes should be treated sympathetically."

    The drugs which are being tested will need to be licensed by the government's medicines control agency. But there has been criticism that NICE, which must then decide whether the NHS should support the use of the drugs, holds up the process for making drugs available after that stage.

    Running its assessment in parallel to the licensing procedure for the cannabis drugs should lead to such "NICE-blight" being avoided.

    The NICE assessments will begin in April 2003 after some drugs trial results are available. Consultation on what should be in next year's programme starts today. Treatments for dementia, hepatitis C and leg ulcers are among others proposed by the health department. Nice decisions only directly affect the NHS in England and Wales but it is unlikely Scottish or Northern Ireland health authorities would refuse to back the cannabis drugs if they were supported elsewhere.

    For further information, refer to the Guardian article. (18/02/02)

    Two hundred people have signed up for the first national study into the effects of cannabis on Multiple Sclerosis.

    The research will investigate whether cannabis and related chemicals help to reduce muscle stiffness and improve mobility in Multiple Sclerosis patients. Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Initially it causes loss of balance, reduced vision and bouts of localised paralysis. Eventually, patients may become totally paralysed and wheelchair-bound.

    The £1.2 million research, funded by the Medical Research Council, is being co-ordinated between the Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Plymouth's Postgraduate Medical School. Dr John Zajicek, who is leading the project, said: "Many patients with MS and their doctors believe that cannabis is helpful in treating some of its symptoms. "This trial is recruiting enough patients to prove scientifically whether cannabis is indeed helpful, as we believe."

    In January the first recruits were signed up in Plymouth and from June the trial was extended nationwide. In total 660 people are needed for the three-year programme, which will involve 38 hospitals across Britain. Patients are accepted onto the study for only one year and are randomly given one of three treatments. Some are given cannabis oil, others a constituent of cannabis called tetrahydrocannabinol, and the remainder receive placebo capsules.

    Every few weeks, those taking part in the trial are assessed for muscle stiffness and mobility and are also asked to take part in a postal survey about their disability and quality of life. Neither the patients nor the doctor will know which form of treatment each is being given until after the study. The results are expected by summer 2003.

    For further information, please click the link above.

    Scientists have proved that cannabis-like drugs can alleviate some of the worst symptoms of the progressive disease Multiple Sclerosis, bringing hope to the 100,000 or so sufferers in Britain.

    There have been claims for decades that cannabis could help MS patients with spasticity and tremors. But scientists from London, Aberdeen and South Carolina report in Nature Today that they have direct proof that a cannabinoid compound used on mice with a Multiple Sclerosis-like condition helped ameliorate symptoms within minutes.

    "Although not a cure," said David Baker, of the institute of neurology at University College, London, "our research suggests that cannabinoids can play a crucial role in controlling some of the neuromuscular problems seen with MS."

    Lorna Layward of the Multiple Sclerosis Society said: "The study provides a firm basis for the human trials of cannabis in MS which are now underway."

    For further information, please click the link above.

    Source: The Guardian (02/03/00)

    © Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre

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