Saturday, June 17, 2006

The benefits of Cannabis (sprayed under the tongue)

Typically Spanish

Spain - Healthcare in Spain is organised on a regional basis. While the region of Cataluña goes to the polls on Sunday to vote on their new regional powers, the Health Service in the region is already well advanced into a study into the use of Cannabis to reduce pain.

The study began at the start of the year using a Cannabis spray, applied under the tongue, called Sativex. The medicine is made by a British company GW Pharmaceutical, and has come imported to Cataluña from Canada where the production is authorised for the control of pain from multiple sclerosis. Now too the Catalan company Almirall has been given a licence to develop the product which contains more than 400 of the active ingredients found in Marihuana.

63 patients are taking part in the therapeutic use of the drug. The volunteers are suffering pain, Aids or Cancer, and feel they have not responded to traditional therapies.

Cannabis also has a reputation for helping to control vomiting and side effects from other treatments, such as chemotherapy. The Catalan study here is much wider with 300 people taking part, but first the doctors have to establish, with a controlled smaller initial group, what dosage of cannabis is needed to be effective, without in itself

Although in the early stages, already eight participants in the study have decided to stop because of the adverse effects they have suffered. Here it seems each person is different, and so each one is keeping a diary where they can record how they are feeling after each treatment. Some are already saying pain is down by some 40%, but that in itself has proven frustrating for some who had hoped for greater relief.

Others say they want to self-medicate themselves, using the real plant or hashish resin, but of course in those circumstances the scientific control goes out the window. There is no control on dosage, or indeed on product quality. Some of the Catalan doctors would like to use cannabis leaves in a study, as has been done in Holland, but that is proving difficult to get past the Spanish Ministry of Health.

Around 90 researchers are taking part in the Catalan project, the first of its type in Spain. The Generalitat, the Catalan Regional Government, says that if the findings are positive they may move to try and change the law in Spain to allow the medicinal use of Cannabis. So far only Canada and Holland have such a law. Here the IU left wing coalition has already put forward a proposal calling for the legal production, distribution and consumption of the drug for therapeutic use.

The first official results from the Catalan study will be published in the Autumn.


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