June 15, 2004
GW Pharmaceuticals Plc's pioneering cannabis-based medicine has shown positive, preliminary results in a final-stage clinical trial to treat nerve pain, the British biotechnology firm said on Tuesday.
The firm said Sativex, developed initially as a treatment for pain in multiple sclerosis sufferers, achieved a statistically significant improvement in pain levels compared with placebo in a study of people suffering "neuropathic" pain caused by damaged or dysfunctional nerves.
GW, which grows over 40,000 marijuana plants a year at a secret location in the English countryside, said it was too early to estimate the size of the market for a neuropathic pain drug, but that at least one per cent of the world's population --including over 600,000 patients in Britain -- suffered from it.
"Neuropathic pain is one of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat and available treatment options are limited," Executive Chairman Geoffrey Guy said in a statement.
Neuropathic pain is also linked to strokes, cancer, spinal cord injury and diabetes.
Sativex, which is sprayed into the mouth rather than smoked, is currently being assessed by regulators in the UK and Canada as a treatment for pain in multiple sclerosis patients, although the process in Britain at least has taken longer than GW initially expected.
The firm also plans to test the drug with sufferers of other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Last week GW, which plans to market Sativex in partnership with Germany 's Bayer , said Sativex could also reduce arthritis pain.
In morning trade, GW's stock was up 0.8 per cent.
Copyright © 2004, Reuters