Saturday, 22 January 2000 0:08 (ET)
ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Those who suffer from chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting may find relief from a marijuana patch being developed at the Albany College of Pharmacy. The patch could also help those suffering from chronic pain and the AIDS virus.
Audra Stinchcomb was awarded a $361,000 three-year grant Friday by the American Cancer Society to study whether cannabinoids, the active ingredients in marijuana, can be absorbed effectively through the skin.
Stinchcomb is an assistant professor who specializes in transdermal delivery or the study of transmitting drugs through the skin. She said transdermal delivery can be tricky because the skin is a good barrier. Otherwise, she said, every capsule could have a patch.
Patches are currently used as painkillers, seasickness medication, to quit smoking (nicotine) and to treat menopause (estrogen).
The researchers will use leftover human skin from "tummy tuck" operations to see if and at what rate the active ingredients in marijuana reach the bloodstream through the skin.
"It could take a decade before a marijuana patch would be available," said Stinchcomb.
"If the initial tests prove successful, animal tests and later human tests would have to be completed."
Smoking marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of chemotherapy has met with much controversy. Its use is currently banned by the federal government, although seven states have allowed its medical use.
President Bill Clinton's drug czar, General Barry R. McCaffrey, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, testified before a House Judiciary Committee 1997 and said:
"Allowing the medical use of smoked marijuana would likely increase the availability of marijuana, thereby increasing the risks of widespread drug use. As drugs become more available, abuse and addiction rise. By allowing marijuana to be legally grown, and used, medical marijuana initiatives are likely to increase the amount of marijuana that is available on our streets and in our schools for illegal use."
In addition to the "high" that some cancer patients and those suffering from chronic pain may object to, smoking marijuana can adversely effect the lungs, the heart and the immune system. A patch, it is believed, would avoid this.
The patch could be legal and give a continuous, steady dose over a period of days.
"Smoking (marijuana) can provide a high immediate dose and make some patients high," said Stinchcomb.
"However, a marijuana patch could work better than a pill because people suffering from the effects of chemotherapy have trouble keeping pills down."
The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, in a 1999 report assessed the scientific knowledge of health effects and possible medical uses of marijuana.
The IOM project confirmed that marijuana alleviated some of the adverse symptoms of chemotherapy and the loss of appetite or desire to eat, common in cancer and AIDS patients.
The report was funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control
The grant for the marijuana patch is the first the American Cancer Society has awarded for marijuana research.
"Some people may not approve," said Don Distasio, of the American Cancer
Society, "but we are going to stick to our guns because we see this as
an issue of helping patients suffering from unnecessary pain."
Copyright 2000 by United Press International.
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