British Cannabis Tests Offer Pain Sufferers
drug company said on Wednesday it was a step
closer to launching cannabis-based medicine for
patients suffering multiple sclerosis and other
forms of severe pain.
GW Pharmaceuticals said it had obtained
encouraging results from the latest phase of
clinical trials and was now extending its program
into Phase III trials, which involve a wider range
of patients in new locations and is the last
hurdle before approval is granted.
The company said it had also obtained
regulatory approval to start clinical trials in
Sufferers from diseases such as multiple
sclerosis, which attacks the central nervous
system, have been calling for a pain-relieving
cannabis medicine for years and many have broken
the law by buying the drug from street dealers. GW
has invested 12 million pounds ($17 million) in
its research and hopes to market its first
prescription cannabis-based medicine in 2003.
It will offer patients the pain-relieving
benefits of cannabis without what the company
calls ``unwanted psychoactive side effects.''
Getting ``high,'' as would happen if patients
smoked marijuana, does not in itself offer medical
benefits. These are derived from the drug's active
ingredients known as cannabinoids.
GW's trials have involved patients taking
cannabis-based medicine by spraying it under their
tongues, which allows it to be absorbed rather
According to Dr. Geoffrey Guy, chairman of GW
Pharmaceuticals, data from their four Phase II
studies in approximately 70 subjects is positive
and encouraging. Patients are clearly gaining
They are seeing a significant improvement in
quality of life for sufferers of a range of
medical conditions and look forward to extending
the trials program.
Results appeared to show significant reduction
in pain, muscle spasm and bladder dysfunction as
well as improved neurological function.
Guy said the company had received approval from
Canadian health authorities allowing it to start
trials in Canada. GW Pharmaceuticals Ltd. is a
private company, set up in 1997, which operates
under licenses issued by the British Home Office
(interior ministry) to cultivate, possess and
supply cannabis for medical research.
The company has been growing cannabis in
secure, computer-controlled glasshouses in
The plants are the same as those grown for
recreational use but trials are designed to
maximize the drug's analgesic, or pain relieving,
effect rather than to make subjects so high they
do not care about the pain.
The company said that if health authorities
issued a license for cannabis-based medicine, the
government had indicated it would be willing to
amend narcotics laws to allow it to be prescribed.