Marijuana Mouth Spray Sativex Earns Austrian OK; Targets US Market Next
|Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 | ProCon.org | MORE HEADLINES|
On Feb. 7, 2012, Austria became the eighth country to approve the pharmaceutical Sativex, a marijuana-based mouth spray used to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients who suffer from spasticity.
Some peer-reviewed studies of Sativex, a drug manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom, have found the drug effective at treating muscle spasms. Margaret Haney, a Professor of Clinical Neurobiology at Columbia University, tells myhealthnewsdaily.com that patients are less likely to abuse drugs in a mouth spray form because it takes at least an hour for patients to feel an effect compared to the minutes it takes to feel effects from smoking marijuana. However, drugs.com notes that after four sprays of Sativex, "both THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] and CBD [cannabidiol] are absorbed fairly rapidly and appear in the plasma within 15 minutes" of the first spray.
In addition to its MS application, Sativex has been approved for use as a cancer pain treatment in Canada and is currently in Phase III clinical development for this indication in the United States. New York Daily News reports that GW Pharmaceuticals hopes to earn FDA approval for Sativex in 2013.
Sativex contains two of marijuana's 400+ components, THC and CBD. Dr. Armando Villarreal, an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Pain Management at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, says that the use of CBD in Sativex could cancel out some of the side effects of THC, such as the high marijuana users experience. Jacob Sullum questions in a reason.com article whether this formulation makes Sativex preferable to marijuana. The high that THC may cause is "an elevation of mood that seriously ill people might actually welcome," Sullum writes, "and how does GW Pharmaceuticals know that THC and CBD entirely account for marijuana’s beneficial effects?"
Sullum also observes that GW Pharmaceuticals has been successful at "marketing the drug to bureaucrats," and has shown "how a disreputable drug can be transformed into a respectable one." This marketing strategy does concern some medical marijuana advocates. Americans for Safe Access spokesman Kris Hermes tells New York Daily News, "To the extent that companies can produce effective medication that utilizes the components of the plant, that's great. But that should not be the exclusive access for people who want to be able to use medical marijuana."
Currently 16 states and Washington, DC have legalized medical marijuana, although it remains an illegal Schedule I drug under federal law.
"Sativex Oromucosal Spray," www.drugs.com, July 28, 2011
Jacob Sullum, "Sativex: Fast for Patients, Slow for Potheads," www.reason.com, Feb. 1, 2012
"Marijuana-Based Drug Sativex May Get FDA Approval," www.nydailynews.com, Jan. 22, 2012