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Sativex and Medical Marijuana - a manufacturer's perspective.

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
How Does Sativex Compare to Medical Marijuana?

After centuries of medicinal marijuana use, the United Stated government politically determined in 1937 that marijuana has no valid medical use. As a consequence of this categorization, marijuana was listed as a Class I substance along with drugs such as heroin and LSD. Ironically, in an effort to quell the rising tide of people demanding that marijuana be reclassified so citizens suffering from a variety of illnesses could make use of its medicinal properties, THC (tetrahydro cannabinol), the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana was reclassified as a Class III drug with little abuse potential.

How ironic, the plant is illegal because according to the DEA it is a dangerous, addictive drug, yet the chemical essence of the plant's psycho-activity is deemed to be a safe drug with little abuse potential. How is it possible that one day THC, natural or synthetic, is a class I drug and then the next day is rescheduled to a class III drug, when nothing else has changed? Science shows that natural THC in the plant or synthetic THC in a Marinol pill is the same chemical compound. The difference between these two preparations is that the plant has other compounds with beneficial biological activity. In particular, CBD (cannabidiol) has among other activities, strong anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that patients prefer the plant instead of the pill. The plant is often preferred because, when it is typically smoked or inhaled from a carcinogen-free vaporizer, the patient can stop administration as soon as the desired therapeutic effect is achieved, often below the level of significant psychological impact.

GW Pharmaceuticals has now added to the repertoire of rapid onset marijuana-based products, an alcohol-based oral spray. Sativex, the first commercial medical marijuana product is an extract of rigidly bred and controlled marijuana plants that are grown under what amounts to laboratory conditions. This product is pharmaceutical grade and is a consistent product free of contaminants. It has a documented ratio of THC to CBD. It is undergoing extensive testing especially in England for a number of illnesses and conditions. In agreement with numerous basic scientific studies, patients suffering from certain forms of pain have found relief using this product. As a result of this product's demonstrated success, Sativex has been approved for distribution in Canada. England and the rest of Europe are expected to soon follow, with the United States lagging a few years behind.

Mercifully, numerous states here in America have taken the matter of providing medical marijuana into their own hands by passing laws that allow sick people to grow and possess marijuana. Do the variety of strains and conditions of growth satisfy the need for Sativex? In most cases the answer can be yes. It is relatively easy to grow marijuana free of harmful contaminants that, has medically beneficial properties. Patients experiment with different strains having different amounts and ratios of cannabinoids. The pro's to this approach is that a patient can test a variety of strains and find the strain that works best for their particular illness. The pharmacological properties of Sativex may not be best for everyone. The con's of this approach is that the products may contain harmful contaminants such as fungal molds and bacteria that could be particularly harmful to immune compromised individuals.

Is the lack of consistent strength a problem when not using true pharmacological grade marijuana as found in Sativex? No, both Sativex and common medical marijuana are self-administered till therapeutic efficacy is reached. They are different preparations of essentially the same product. Bayer Health Care, who markets Sativex, has published a monograph on Sativex and states, "marijuana, which contains the same active compounds". Unlike most pharmaceutical drugs, cannabis has an incredibly high therapeutic index (the ratio of the median lethal dose (LD50) to the median effective dose (ED50) so that a mistaken high dose is not life threatening. Certainly, Sativex is a true pharmacological product, but marijuana certainly relieves the suffering of thousand of seriously ill Americans today.

Medical Marijuana, Marinol and Sativex
Robert Melamede, Associate Professor and Chairman of the Biology Department, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
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