Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2005
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2005 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Andre Picard
Cited: GW Pharmaceuticals
Bookmark: (Sativex)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Canada has become the first country in the world to approve the sale
of a cannabis-based prescription painkiller.

Cannabis sativa L. has won approval from Health Canada regulators for
treatment of a severe form of pain common among sufferers of multiple
sclerosis, but it may also find favor with those with nerve pain
related to conditions ranging from shingles to cancer.

The drug, marketed in Canada by Bayer HealthCare under the brand name
Sativex, is sprayed under the tongue or inside the cheek.

While it contains the active ingredients that give pot smokers their
buzz, including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol
(CBD), users will not get stoned.

"These people are not feeling intoxicated by the drug, partly because
the type of cannabinoids that have been isolated and purified work
more specifically at the targeted pain receptors," said Dr. Virginia
Devonshire, a neurologist at the University of British Columbia.

Patients who will be prescribed the drug will also be suffering from
neuropathic pain, which is excruciating and can be provoked by
movement, touch or temperature.

"It's like being plugged into an electric socket all the time," said
Steve Walsh of Milton, Ontario, who has endured neuropathic pain in
his hand for five years since being diagnosed with MS.

He said that, at times, simple things like holding money in his hands
"can be too much to take." None of the numerous painkillers he has
tried to date provided any real relief, he said.

"There's a huge community of people with MS who are looking forward to
this," Walsh said. "Personally, I would be tickled pink if it helped
with the pain so I could do things like pick up my grandchild without

Sativex should be on the market in Canada before summer. The price of
the drug has not yet been established.

While a number of drugs use synthesized forms of cannabis, this is the
first to actually use marijuana extracts. The British drug company
that developed Sativex, GW Pharmaceuticals, has been harvesting 40,000
pot plants in a secret location to produce the drug.

Dr. Allan Gordon, a neurologist and director of the Wasser Pain
Management Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said that while
the drug is getting a lot of attention because it is derived from
cannabis, the real story is that there is an "urgent need for
additional treatment options in the field of neuropathic pain and MS."
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