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
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
No smoked cannabis
According to these experts, cannabis could
- 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.”