Sativex (pharmaceutical marijuana) approved in ten more European countries

What medical marijuana of the future looks like

You want medical marijuana?  Big Pharma is more than willing to sell it to you

International expansion of UK firm GW Pharma’s cannabis-based spray Sativex is well underway after a further 10 European countries recommended approval of the drug for multiple sclerosis patients.

Health Authorities in Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia have now given the go-ahead for Sativex (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol), completing its Mutual Recognition Procedure in Europe.

This means that Sativex can be marketed in these countries as an add-on therapy for the treatment of moderate to severe spasticity due to MS in patients who have not responded adequately to other medication, and launches are expected from the end of this year onwards.

Sativex has already been approved in the UK, Spain, and Germany and other European countries:

GW says marketing partner Almirall expects to introduce the drug in the German market in July and before the end of 2011 in Denmark and Sweden. Sativex is scheduled to be launched in Italy, Czech Republic and Austria in 2012.

In case you don’t know, Sativex is a whole-plant extract of cannabis.  So it’s not like Marinol, the synthetic THC-only pill that many cancer and MS patients dislike because of extreme psychoactivity and difficulty in dosing (it’s hard to swallow a pill when you’re wretching from chemo and it takes 45 minutes of digestion before you know if you took the right amount.)

Nope, this is the real thing, the whole plant, with all the THC, CBD, terpenoids, flavinoids, reduced to an spray.  It goes under the tongue, where your mucous membranes absorb the cannabis medicine quickly, almost like smoking or vaporizing plant cannabis, so there are no issues with swallowing difficulty or delayed effect like Marinol.  It comes in guaranteed dosage, potency, and purity.  It may be more expensive than growing pot, but insurance companies will likely cover the cost of the drug for cancer and MS patients.

And it’s coming to a medical marijuana state near you:

(CBS/AP) A marijuana-based mouth spray may get FDA approval as soon as 2013 – at least that’s what British manufactuer GW Pharma hopes. The company is in advanced clinical trials on the world’s first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana plants.

Other marijuana-based drugs currently on the market use synthetic equivalents of pot, but this stuff’s made from the real deal. Its makers want to market the drug in the U.S. as a treatment for cancer pain.

The spray, called Sativex, contains marijuana’s two best known components – delta 9-THC and cannabidiol. The medication has already been approved in Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries for relieving muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

This is nothing new.  A decade ago, US firms were investigating an inhaler delivery device to combat the swallowing/delayed-effect issue with Marinol:

The makers of the synthetic THC capsule Marinol – the only legal cannabinoid drug available in the United States – are developing a metered dose inhaler so that patients may consume the drug in ways other than oral administration, according to a Business Wire report released this week. Many doctors and patients criticize the effectiveness of Marinol because the drug doesn’t take effect until two to four hours after administration. Patients also complain that they have difficulty self-regulating Marinol and that the drug’s psychoactivity is enhanced when it is swallowed.

Now I have nothing against Sativex or other cannabinoid pharmaceuticals.  For the truly sick and disabled, any advance that makes the medicine more reliable, easier to use, and more effective gets a thumbs up from me.

But if your strategy to legalize the use of plant cannabis by all people for any reason is to preach “All use is medical/wellness”, cannabinoid pharmaceuticals is where you’ll end up.  There exists a paradigm for the medical / wellness use of substances, and it lies in the realm of doctors and pharmacists and prescriptions and manufactured drugs.  However, there also exists a paradigm for the recreational use of substances, and it lies in the realm of taverns and bartenders and DUI laws and ID checks and home brewing.

In which paradigm do you think marijuana fits better?

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