Pubdate: Thu, 22 Mar 2001
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Contact:  75 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER, England
Fax: +44-171-837 4530
Author: Sarah Boseley, Health Editor


Progress towards a cannabis-based medicine for conditions it can allegedly 
help, such as multiple sclerosis, is too slow, a House of Lords committee 
said yesterday.

It urged the government to change the law so doctors can legally prescribe 
cannabis derivatives as soon as they are scientifically approved.

The Lords select committee on science and technology has re-entered the 
fray after receiving the brush-off from the government in November 1998, 
when it recommended that doctors should be allowed to prescribe cannabis 
derivatives; a finding the government rejected.

Yesterday the committee published a ten-page report on the progress towards 
producing a legitimate medicine from the drug.

The Medical Research Council has commissioned two trials from scientists to 
establish the principle that cannabis derivatives can help relieve pain. 
However, the committee is concerned that it may take a long time for 
anything practical to emerge from trials.

The committee is more encouraged by the progress being made by the GW 
Pharmaceuticals, which is about to embark on the large-scale trials of 
cannabis-based treatments.

The report says the government's attitude lately has been more encouraging, 
following a period in which it feared that "permitting therapeutic 
preparations of cannabis to be prescribed would be interpreted by the 
public as a move towards allowing recreational use".

Lord Perry of Walton, a committee member, said yesterday that he hoped 
there might be a cannabis-derived medicine on the market within two years.

However, he was alarmed by a decision by the licensing body, the Medicines 
Control Agency, that past evidence on the toxicity of the cannabis 
derivative cannabidiol was not good enough. Additional testing could slow 
development of a licensed medicine by two to three years.
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