Two Expert Committees Open the Door to Therapeutic Cannabis

Two Expert Committees Open the Door to Therapeutic Cannabis

An independent committee, set up by the Medicines Agency, considers it “appropriate” to authorize the use of therapeutic cannabis. And the Ethics Committee of the League Against Cancer sees no reason to oppose it.

One after the other, two expert reports are slowly opening the door to therapeutic cannabis in France. State after State in the US has already gone through massive changes relating to therapeutic and recreational uses of cannabis. In the 31 US states in which cannabis legalization has occurred, cannabis businesses are moving to make the most of growing consumer demand. In a perfect example of the marriage between helping people in need and shrewd business sense, West Coast Ventures Corp. (OTC: WCVC)’s Illegal Burger brand offers CBD-infused edibles to customers across the US.

As well as a business success story – one of Illegal Burger’s flagship restaurants is set to exceed $1 million in sales this year – it’s a personal story that highlights growing public awareness of therapeutic cannabis. CEO Jim Nixon was inspired to provide CDB-infused food by the dramatic, positive changes he saw in his son Jordan who took CBD to help manage his multiple sclerosis.

Businesses are watching eagerly to see if similar changes may take place in France. Neither the expert group set up by the National Health Products Agency (ANSM) nor the Ethics Committee of the League against Cancer appear to wish to stand in the way of introducing therapeutic cannabis.

Two products authorized in France

For years, French patients have requested the use of cannabis, particularly to relieve chronic pain in diseases such as cancer, AIDS, or multiple sclerosis. A first breach was opened in 2003 when Marinol was authorized for those suffering from neuropathic pain. But this product can only be obtained through a rather complex administrative procedure.

In 2014, a milestone occurred with the marketing authorization (MA) for Sativex, an oral spray for patients with multiple sclerosis and very painful muscle contractures, spasms and stiffness. It contains two cannabis derivatives: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Four years later, however, the drug remains unavailable in pharmacies because the Ministry and the laboratory have not agreed on a reimbursement price.

Last May, Minister of Health Agnes Buzyn said that therapeutic cannabis could be authorized after the “different institutions that evaluate drugs” have updated her with their knowledge on the subject. It was then that the ANSM set up the committee of independent experts, which, on Thursday 13 December, deemed it “appropriate to authorize the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.” It stipulated that this was reserved for specific clinical situations in which patients were not already sufficiently relieved by the available treatments or in which they tolerated them badly.

No smoked cannabis

According to these experts, cannabis could be used:

  • for pain refractory to other therapies
  • in certain severe and drug-resistant forms of epilepsy
  • in supportive care in oncology
  • in palliative situations, and
  • in the painful spasticity (contractures) of multiple sclerosis.

Due to the health risks, the committee excludes smoking therapeutic cannabis.

The League’s Ethics Committee had been approached by a cancer patient who had noticed relief of her pain and nausea, and the return of her appetite while taking cannabis. She wanted to have an ethical opinion on the subject, arguing that the “illicit nature” of cannabis consumption exposed patients to “various risks, including legal risks, for use that would nevertheless improve their quality of life.”

In its response, the Committee first notes that the international scientific literature is “rather inconclusive” on the therapeutic effects of cannabis. It believes that the pain-relieving effect of cannabis is “much less than that of morphine and other opium derivatives” used in medicine.

Access supervised by health authorities

In conclusion, the Committee states that it does not “identify any reason to oppose the use of cannabis by patients who claim to benefit from it, even if this benefit is not demonstrated according to the most rigorous scientific methodologies.”

According to these experts, access to cannabis should be in a form that “avoids smoking, so as not to be exposed to the harmful effects of this mode of consumption.” And this access should be supervised by the health authorities.

“Such a framework would allow sick people to dispense with the need to use parallel channels to obtain the product from which they benefit,” the opinion notes. “It would also prevent them risking criminal prosecution for their use.”

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