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GW Pharmaceuticals says its cannabis-based treatment for multiple
sclerosis is poised to become a prescription drug

A cannabis-based drug which relieves the symptoms of multiple
sclerosis should be available on prescription by the end of the year,
it was announced today.

GW Pharmaceuticals said Sativex, which contains extracts from whole
cannabis plants, is on track for release subject to approval by the
Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Because it contains the class C drug, Sativex would also require a
change in the law, but Home Secretary David Blunkett has indicated he
would be willing to make an amendment if the drug was approved.

GW, based in Salisbury, grows 40,000 cannabis plants a year at a
secret site.

The drug is administered as a spray in the mouth and works to
alleviate pain and relax muscle spasms.

New clinical trials are about to start on the drug after it showed
positive results in trials held in November.

It is also being tested for its effectiveness at treating cancer pain
and neuropathic pain caused by spinal cord injury.

MS is the most common disabling neurological condition affecting young
adults, with around 85,000 sufferers in the UK.

It results from damage to myelin - a protective sheath surrounding
nerve fibres of the central nervous system - which then interferes
with messages between the brain and other body parts.

GW, which has about 100 employees in the UK, has sold the marketing
rights for Sativex to German healthcare giant Bayer.

It submitted its licence application to the MHRA in March and has
indicated that if UK approval is received, it would look at entering
the market in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Announcing its interim results today, GW said it made a net loss after
tax of UKP6.7 million for the six months to March 31.

This compared with a loss of UKP5.3 million in the same period last year
and the UKP5.9 million loss in the second half of the last financial

Research and development expenditure increased to UKP6.5 million from
UKP5.1 million in the same period last year.

Executive chairman Dr Geoffrey Guy said: "GW's achievements over
recent years provide a solid platform for growth.

"We are confident that GW is on track to secure regulatory approvals,
commercial partnerships and launches for Sativex around the world."

Shares in the company stood 7p lower at 230.5p in afternoon trade.

Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jun 2003
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Times Newspapers Ltd
Contact: letters@thetimes.co.uk
Website: The Times & The Sunday Times
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