Pubdate: Sun, 13 June 1999
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: of Telegraph Group Limited 1999
Author: Jacqui Thornton, Health Correspondent


Patients in Britain's first clinical trial of cannabis will take the drug
through an inhaler similar to those used by asthma sufferers.

The device, to be unveiled this month, will use vapours from heated cannabis
aimed at giving quick pain relief to hundreds of multiple sclerosis,
neuralgia and glaucoma sufferers taking part in the trial. The cannabis, a
brown viscous liquid, will be heated in a laboratory oven and placed in the
inhaler, the size of a mobile phone. The patient will inhale the vapours
through a tube under medical supervision. Pain relief is expected in
minutes. Eventually, it is planned the heating mechanism will be
incorporated into the inhaler.

The drug, which produces an analgesic effect in small quantities and a
"high" in larger amounts, is only activated when heated. It is hoped that
the trial, involving 900 patients over a three-year period, will begin in
July, subject to approval by the Medicines Control Agency. One hundred
patients are being selected for the early stages.

Most patients will be MS sufferers but there will also be people with
neuralgia, glaucoma and post-operative pain. The dosage will be large enough
to relieve pain but not enough to make them "high". If the drug is shown to
ease symptoms without side-effects, doctors could be prescribing it to some
of the country's 85,000 MS sufferers within five years.

Inhaler technology has existed for some years but GW Pharmaceuticals - which
is conducting the trial - has been working with the manufacturers for a year
to adapt it for cannabis use. Mark Rogerson, a spokesman for GW
Pharmaceuticals, said: "The most important thing is being able to replicate
the beneficial effects of inhaling cannabis without the harmful effects of
smoking and that's why so much effort has gone into making this inhaler."

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