More MS news articles for June 1999

Canada Mulls Marijuana Inhaler

Product Would Ease Pain Without Chemical High
Country To Study Plant For Medicinal Uses
Health Minister Orders Clinical Trials On Drug


Friday, June 04,1999 - 08:02 PM ET

(Reuters) Canada is quietly investigating the possibility of testing a marijuana inhaler being developed by a British company that would help ease the pain of suffering patients but stop short of making them high.

Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals has been testing vaporized marijuana, heated and inhaled through a nebulizer -- similar to the inhalers used by asthma sufferers -- to relieve pain in chronically ill patients.

"Certainly we are looking at what is going on in the international community", Bonnie Fox-McCintyre, spokeswoman for Canada's health minister, told Reuters. "But I think it would be too fine a point to say we're already negotiating", Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper reported Thursday that the government has begun talks with the company to test the product in its own clinical trials.

In March, Health Minister Allan Rock ordered clinical trials for the medical use of marijuana and to determine how to grant safe access to the drug. Last week, Rock expressed a preference for growing a supply of the drug in Canada.

If the trials prove marijuana helps relieve pain, the government is expected to allow its use.

"It's not that there's some strange marijuana somewhere that doesn't have a psychoactive effect",  Mark Rogerson, spokesman for GW Pharmaceuticals, told Reuters from London Thursday. "It's just that the dosage required to relieve the pain would be much less than what is required to make you high".

"I've seen reports that (the Canadian government) has invited us to negotiations, but I can't comment on that", Rogerson said.

The drug's painkilling capabilities are believed to prevent epileptic seizures, and relieve pain for multiple sclerosis and cancer patients.

"There's about 4,000 years, give or take, of anecdotal evidence", Rogerson said.

The company is trying to deliver the drug through an inhaler to avoid the harmful action of smoking and hopes to have a product on the market within five years. Tests have already been conducted on healthy volunteers and, within two weeks, trials in Britain will begin on multiple sclerosis patients.

GW Pharmaceuticals clones marijuana in a greenhouse to ensure a secure a constant supply of the drug, something Canada has considered doing as well.