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Manufacture Clinical Trials, Small Molecules

Weeding Out Pain

A recent study showed that patients being treated for chronic pain, mental health and gastrointestinal issues would rather use cannabis than prescribed medicines. The study was performed in Canada, and the researchers say it is one of the first studies to track medical cannabis use under Canada’s new system of licensed products – and that means all participants had the OK from their doctor to access cannabis in addition to their prescribed medicine (1). Overall, 63 per cent of respondents reported using cannabis instead of their prescription drugs, which included opioids, benzodiazepines and anti-depressants. The lead researcher involved in the project, Philippe Lucas, suggested that the preference for cannabis stemmed from reduced side effects, better symptom management, as well as a feeling that cannabis is safer than prescription drugs.

Only a handful of countries have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, but the number is growing. In the US, cannabis for medical purposes is legal in certain states, but the US Federal government does not recognize any medical qualities in cannabis. But given that a number of pharma companies are pursuing the development of cannabis-based drugs, we could be set for a shake up. GW Pharmaceuticals is hoping to nab the first FDA approval for a cannabidiol-based drug with Epidiolex – a treatment for children with Lennox-Gastaur syndrome (a rare form of epilepsy). The company already has a cannabis-based drug, Sativex, approved in a number of countries for treating MS pain, although the drug failed cancer pain clinical trials in 2015.

Research has shown that cannabis legalized for medical use can reduce opioid overdosing (2), but, for the most part, large pharma companies have opposed its use. In the US, PhRMA is considered a serious opponent – and skeptics believe that the resistance stems from concerns that pot may eat into profits.  A recent report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, claims that cannabis is effective for treating chronic pain, especially for patients with multiple-sclerosis (3). And given that MS drugs were recently declared the most over-priced in the world (4), it’s little wonder that patients are looking for alternatives.

Stephanie Sutton

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  1. P Lucas, Z Walsh, “Medical cannabis access, use, and substitution for prescription opioids and other substances: A survey of authorized medical cannabis patients”, Drug Policy, 42, 30-35 (2017). PMID: 28189912
  2. The Washington Post, “One striking chart shows why pharma companies are fighting legal marijuana” (2017). Available at Last accessed March 10, 2017.
  3. Asian Correspondent, “Philippines: One day after death penalty vote, House endorses medical marijuana” (2017). Available at Last accessed March 10, 2017.
  4. Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, “Disease-modifying therapies for relapsing-remitting and primary-progressive multiple sclerosis: effectiveness and value” (2017). Available at Last accessed March 10, 2017.
About the Author
Stephanie Vine

Making great scientific magazines isn’t just about delivering knowledge and high quality content; it’s also about packaging these in the right words to ensure that someone is truly inspired by a topic. My passion is ensuring that our authors’ expertise is presented as a seamless and enjoyable reading experience, whether in print, in digital or on social media. I’ve spent fourteen years writing and editing features for scientific and manufacturing publications, and in making this content engaging and accessible without sacrificing its scientific integrity. There is nothing better than a magazine with great content that feels great to read.

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