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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004, 17:46 GMT
Cannabis hopes bolster drugs firm
The drug is grown at a secret farm in the English countryside
A prescription cannabis drug made by UK biotech firm GW Pharmaceuticals is set to be approved in Canada.

The drug is used to treat the central nervous system and alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

A few weeks ago, shares in GW Pharma lost a third of their value after UK regulators said they wanted more evidence about the drug's benefits.

But now Canadian authorities have said the Sativex drug will be considered for approval.


Approximately 50,000 people in Canada have been diagnosed with MS and 85,000 people are suffering from the condition in the UK.

Many patients already smoke cannabis to relieve their symptoms.

Now, GW Pharma's Sativex mouth spray could be legally available to MS sufferers in Canada within the next few months.

This will be the first time a cannabis-based drug has been approved anywhere in the world, representing a landmark for GW Pharma and for patients with MS.

Final approval in Canada should now be little more than a formality, analysts said, and the company expects full approval for Sativex early in 2005.

"We are delighted to receive this qualifying notice from Health Canada and look forward to receiving regulatory approval for Sativex in Canada in the early part of 2005," said GW Pharma executive chairman Dr Geoffrey Guy.

Secret farm

The UK government granted GW Pharma a licence to grow the cannabis plant for medical research purposes.

Satifex consists of a cannabis extract containing tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, a cocktail that has also proved effective in treating patients with arthritis.

Thousands of plants are grown at a secret location somewhere in the English countryside.

Despite hopes of regulatory approval last year, a series of delays has put back Sativex's launch in the UK.

The latest news sent shares in GW Pharma up 8.5p, or 8.1%, to 113.5p.

Cannabis free-up boosts drug firm
24 Oct 01 |  Business

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