Pubdate: Tue, 05 Jan 2016
Source: Herald, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2016 The Herald
Author: Natalie Grover


A SMALL scientific company says it has a trump card in its quest to 
develop chewing-gum based on dagga to ease multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Axim Biotechnologies says it will be able to price its gum cheaper 
than a major competitor after securing a significant discount on 
dagga made available by the Dutch government, which has a policy of 
promoting the drug for medicinal use.

But New York-based Axim has a long way to go before its Medchew RX 
gum will be a viable alternative to an under-the-tongue spray 
developed by GW Pharmaceuticals in Britain.

The gum is still in the pre-clinical stage of development. The spray, 
called Sativex, is already approved in 27 countries, though not in 
the US where dagga remains prohibited under federal law.

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, or MS, which affects about 
400 000 people in the US.

About 80% of patients suffer from spasticity, a condition often 
treated with the muscle relaxant baclofen.

Existing oral therapies offer limited relief from spasticity and pain 
and come with side-effects, such as muscle weakness.

Botox, an injectable alternative, offers localised treatment and is costly.

Provided treatment was regulated, dagga could be therapeutic for MS 
patients, New York's North Shore University Hospital specialist Paul 
Wright said.

"I do believe that there's a role for it," he said, "but I am fearful 
of the potential for abuse."

Axim's gum and GW's spray are both designed to offer more consistent 
relief than artisanal products derived from dagga that are smoked or eaten.

A typical British patient takes four sprays of Sativex daily at a 
cost of about UKP5.56 (R127).

But state health systems in some countries, including GW's home 
market, do not consider the drug sufficiently cost-effective to 
justify coverage.

Axim executive Lekhram Changoer said the company would be able to 
pass on the discount from its Dutch-sourced dagga to customers.

He declined to estimate an exact price.

Dutch specialist in the medicinal use of dagga Marco van de Velde 
said the government was making the drug available to Axim and other companies.

He declined to give further details.

GW - a pioneer in the development of natural daggaderived medicine 
has no plans to source dagga from the Netherlands.

It grows its plants at a secret location in England. - Reuters
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom