Pubdate: Mon, 10 Apr 2000
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2000 San Francisco Chronicle
Author: Lawrence K. Altman, New York Times
Note: Much information is available on the UK Medicinal Cannabis web site:


Cannabis Medicines Wouldn't Be Smoked

Iowa City, Iowa -- By cultivating marijuana and testing the most promising 
of its more than 100 ingredients, a British pharmaceutical company hopes to 
develop drugs for a variety of ailments, a company official said at the 
first national conference for health professionals on the medical uses for 

The privately owned company, GW Pharmaceuticals Ltd. of Salisbury, England, 
is ``trying to turn an illegal plant into a pharmaceutically regulated 
product'' by developing cannabis-based medicines that are not smoked, said 
Dr. David C. Hadorn, the company's North American medical director. GW is 
studying what it believes will be the most promising ingredients of 
marijuana in a structured research program.

Earlier this month, the British government approved the company's plans to 
advance to the next stage of testing, for effectiveness, among people with 
multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and other conditions that produce 
severe pain and muscle spasms. Six healthy volunteers had earlier taken 
four different preparations several times over a period of several weeks in 
the earliest phase of testing, for safety.

Full-scale testing eventually will involve about 2,000 patients in England, 
Canada and the United States, and the hope is to develop a licensed product 
by 2003, Hadorn said.

The University of Iowa's colleges of nursing and medicine sponsored the 
two-day conference to help health care professionals and providers learn 
how to obtain and properly use medical marijuana.

Melanie C. Dreher, the nursing school's dean, said the conference was 
needed because thousands of Americans use marijuana medically even though 
it is illegal in most states. Voters in at least seven states (Alaska, 
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) have approved 
initiatives intended to make marijuana legal for medical purposes. But many 
doctors are afraid to recommend it because the federal government has 
threatened to prosecute them.

In an interview, Dreher -- who has researched marijuana use for many years 
- -- spoke of a nurse's experience with the father of a man with cancer. The 
father told the nurse that marijuana had eased his son's nausea and pain at 
home. Taking the hint, the nurse rigged the son's intravenous tubing to a 
wheelchair to allow them to go off while the son smoked a marijuana 
cigarette. The therapy allowed the son a more comfortable death.

The American Medical Association supported the Iowa conference by awarding 
doctor participants credits toward their continuing education.

No government officials were among the 250 patients, doctors, nurses and 
lawyers who attended the conference and at telecasts in seven medical 
centers in the United States and Canada. Dr. David Satcher, the surgeon 
general of the Public Health Service, declined an invitation, Mathre said.

In a government-commissioned study a year ago, the Institute of Medicine of 
the National Academy of Sciences said some of the ingredients in marijuana 
are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea and severe weight loss 
from AIDS. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake