Drugmaker to Test Fat-Fighting Marijuana Drug


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Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals Plc said Tuesday it plans to start human trials of an experimental treatment for obesity derived from cannabis.

Cannabis is commonly associated with stimulating hunger. Several other companies, including Sanofi-Aventis with Acomplia, are working on new drugs that try to switch off the brain circuits that make people hungry when they smoke it.

GW Pharma, however, says it has derived a treatment from cannabis itself that could help suppress hunger.

"The cannabis plant has 70 different cannabinoids in it, and each has a different affect on the body," GW Managing Director Justin Gover told Reuters.

"Some can stimulate your appetite, and some in the same plant can suppress your appetite. It is amazing both scientifically and commercially," he said in a telephone interview.

GW said it plans to start clinical trials of the new drug in the second half of this year. Medicines have to pass three stages of tests in humans before being assessed by regulators in a process that takes many years.

Sanofi-Aventis' (Charts) Acomplia, which it believes can achieve $3 billion in annual sales, is already on sale in Europe and it is waiting for a U.S. regulatory decision in April.

Several other big drug companies also have similar products to Acomplia already in clinical trials.

GW is best known for developing Sativex, a treatment derived from cannabis that fights spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. Sativex, an under-the-tongue spray, has been approved in Canada, but has hit delays with regulators in Britain.

GW, which competes with rivals such as AstraZeneca (Charts), submitted Sativex for assessment by several European regulators in September, and hopes to secure approval for the UK, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands in the second half of this year at the earliest, the company said Tuesday.

GW said revenue for the year ended Sept. 30 was slightly ahead of expectations at £1.98 million, £1.35 million of which came from Sativex.

The firm posted a pre-tax loss of £13.9 million, in line with forecasts. According to a poll of analysts by Reuters Estimates, the loss in 2007 will be £13.5 million.

GW's marijuana plants are grown indoors in a secret location in Southern England.

"With a U.S. partnering deal and a European approval both expected this year, we remain very comfortable with our Buy recommendation," Investec analyst Ibraheem Mahmood said.

GW shares were up almost 5.5 percent, valuing the company at £92.5 million.

Source: CNN Money
Copyright: 2007 Cable News Network
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