British Company Seeks FDA Approval for Drug Derived From Marijuana

GW Pharma, a British pharmaceutical company, is well on its way to getting the go-ahead in the US to market a prescription medication obtained from raw marijuana rather than synthetic components. The drug has already received approval in New Zealand, Canada and eight European countries, and many believe it will be on the shelves in America by the end of 2013.

The company is attempting to take Sativex to market, a mouth spray containing the active ingredients THC and cannabidiol, both found in marijuana. The hope is to sell Sativex to ease the muscle pain experienced from multiple sclerosis and for pain suffered by cancer patients. GW Pharma is at the end of advanced clinical trials and if they are able to get final FDA approval, it may turn the medicinal marijuana debate upside down in this country. Seeing as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana as having no medicinal value, using derivatives from the actual plant in an FDA-approved prescription will give more fuel to activists who question the legitimacy of the DEA’s position.

Complicating an Already Complicated Relationship

The U.S. has a strange relationship with marijuana. Currently, 16 states, including our country’s capitol of Washington, D.C., allow doctors to write medical marijuana prescriptions. Yet the plant is not recognized officially as one with any medical use. This is despite the fact that the FDA, over 20 years ago, approved the use of two prescriptions, Marinol and Cesamet, with synthetic THC as their main ingredient.

Some would argue the synthetic version is safer or more effective because it has been perfected in a lab, but no studies have been done to back up those claims. That is why the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is sponsoring research at the University of California at Davis comparing the effects of smoking marijuana to those of the synthetic Marinol in easing painful muscle spasms. When the results are completed, there may be the beginning of some baseline information in this arena.

Why Does a Pharmaceutical Company Make a Medicine Legit?

With abuse of prescription medications by far the fastest growing drug problem in America, why does it seem the government is willing to bend the rules for these companies who stand to make millions rather than bend them for the cancer patients who for decades have just wanted to legally ease their pain? The argument seems to be they fear rampant addiction if they were to make marijuana legal by prescription. However, haven’t the pharmaceutical companies already contributed to mass addiction problems?

What is your stance? Do you think marijuana should be made legal by prescription across the board? Or do you feel safer knowing a pharmaceutical company has designed the medication? Would you want to see the results of independent studies on effectiveness and safety before making a decision? Do you worry about increased numbers of addiction? Please let us know your thoughts below.