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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 08:06 GMT
Cannabis medicine 'within a year'
Cannabis, BBC
Cannabis trials are proceeding well
Cannabis-based medicines could be available in the UK within a year following promising results in clinical trials.

GW Pharmaceuticals, the company granted a government licence to carry out tests on cannabis compounds, announced on Tuesday that advanced phase III trials had been successfully completed.


The results show statistically significant reductions in pain, which is recognised as being difficult to treat

Dr Philip Robson
The tests, the last stage of drug evaluation before approval, showed that cannabis-based medicines can help to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

The product developed by GW is sprayed into the mouth rather than smoked.

In tests on approximately 350 patients, it proved to be significantly better than a dummy drug at reducing pain, spasticity (problems with muscle movement) and sleep disturbance.

Better than alternatives

Dr Philip Robson, GW medical director, said the results showed that the cannabis-based medicine could out-perform currently available drug treatments.

"The results show statistically significant reductions in neuropathic pain, which is recognised as being difficult to treat and is often particularly distressing.

"There were also significant improvements in other symptoms in patients with MS, notably spasticity and sleep disturbance.

"In my opinion, it is this broad spectrum of activity, coupled with an excellent safety profile, which gives GW's cannabis-based medicine the potential to make a unique contribution towards improving the quality of life of patients with these chronic disabling diseases."

GW, which cultivates some 40,000 cannabis plants a year at a secret location in the English countryside, now plans to seek marketing approval from Britain's Medicines Control Agency early next year.

Better than expected

Executive chairman Geoffrey Guy said: "The performance of GW's medicine has exceeded our own expectations.

"Subject to regulatory approval, we are now on track to deliver our first prescription medicine to the UK market next year."


We hope we are moving much closer to the day when people with MS will have access to cannabis-derived drugs which have been proved both effective and safe

MS Society
The UK government has already said it would grant permission for the use of cannabis-based medications if trials produced positive results.

GW has been holding talks with a number of pharmaceutical firms interested in licensing its cannabis medicines.

A further five Phase III trials are in progress as part of an overall programme which is the largest ever undertaken into the medicinal effects of cannabis.

Warm welcome

The Medicinal Cannabis Research Foundation (MCRF) called on the government to make cannabis-based medicines available to the public without delay.

Lord Rea, lead trustee of the MCRF said: "This is great news.

"The patients in the Phase III studies carried out by GW Pharmaceuticals appear to have gained significant medical benefit and the medicines were well tolerated.

"Many patients outside the clinical trials are currently at risk by breaking the law to obtain cannabis to relieve their pain and so it is imperative that the Medicines Control Agency has an early opportunity to review the evidence to allow a rapid decision on licensing and to allow a product to be made available in 2003."

The Multiple Sclerosis Society said the results appeared "very encouraging".

"We hope we are moving much closer to the day when people with MS will have access to cannabis-derived drugs which have been proved both effective and safe in the treatment of symptoms of this long-term condition.

"In the meantime, we continue to argue that people should not be criminalised for using a drug which can alleviate those often painful symptoms and have asked the police and prosecuting authorities to deal with cases sympathetically."

See also:

31 May 01 | UK
10 Aug 01 | Health
05 Jul 01 | Health
16 Jan 02 | Health
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