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Cannabis MS Drug 'Available Soon'


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Source: CNN (US Web) 
Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Cable News Network, Inc. 
Contact: [email protected]

London, England (CNN) -- A cannabis-based medicine for multiple sclerosis sufferers could be available on prescription in Britain by the summer, according to its manufacturer. 

UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals said production and marketing teams were on stand-by to launch Sativex, subject to it gaining regulatory approval. The firm said its application was close to winning approval from the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency. 

Executive chairman Dr. Geoffrey Guy said: "We have every reason to be extremely excited about the year ahead." 

The group hopes the assessment process will be finished during the second quarter of 2004 and that the product will be available on prescription soon afterwards. 

GW Pharmaceuticals, which floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2002, is the only company to legally develop and produce cannabis-derived treatments. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that more than 10 percent of multiple sclerosis sufferers use cannabis illegally to help alleviate their symptoms of pain, muscle spasm and shaking. 

GW Pharmaceuticals has developed three means of administering the drug. The first is by spraying it in the mouth, another is by taking a pill and the third is by vaporizer -- rather like an asthma inhaler. 

Richard Payne is one of the patients who took part in the clinical trials. He was diagnosed with MS in 1985. 

And although there is no cure for the disease which attacks the central nervous system, he found his quality of life was dramatically improved. 

"My sleeping patterns were very disrupted through spasms and twitching and bladder problems. They were the main areas which I was concerned about which were causing problems," Payne told CNN. 

"Having taken cannabis it has helped those areas -- so now I have found a level that suits me. My bladder problems are much better and my quality of life much better." 

However, experts caution that cannabis is not a cure-all. 

"It does need to be treated with caution," according to Marianne Miles, director of the MS Society. 

"But as well as a cure it is important that we look at drugs that will affect the quality of life of people with MS. 

"For someone who has pain or spasticity if that can be relieved then many people say they can live with their MS as a disease -- if they can get rid of some of the symptoms that go with the condition." 

Because of its cannabis content, Sativex will require a change in the law, which UK ministers have already said they will recommend. 

Once GW Pharmaceuticals has won approval from British regulators it will start the process elsewhere in Europe and in North America. 

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