Study in Spain underlines therapeutic use of cannabis

Recent study carried out by the Catalan Department of Health and Spanish Health Ministery endorses the efficiency of cannabis in combatting the effects of chemotherapy

A pioneering study carried out by the Catalan Department of Health has demonstrated the efficiency of a medicine which contains cannabis in treating sickness and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy. At present cannabis is available in a medicine form throughout the Spanish health service for patients being treated with chemotherapy if other drugs fail to be effective.

Yesterday, Marina Geli, the head of the Catalan health service said that a pilot programme using cannabis to treat those with multiple sclerosis, cancer and other illnesses had shown that sickness in 67% of the patients in the study had decreased. There were 207 patients in the study suffering from various illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, neuralgic pain and other serious conditions associated with chronic pain.

The study which cost 500,000 euros and was carried out in collaboration with the Spanish Ministry of Health is the first to respond to public opinion which supports the therapeutic use of cannabis.

In the case of patients suffering from anorexia-caquexia associated with Aids up to 53% of these regained their appetites. The number of patients in the study suffering from multiple sclerosis who went from having unbearable pain to suffering tolerable pain went down from 66% to 35% and the number of patients who suffered almost no pain at all increased from 11.40% to 27.70%.

The drug containing cannabis called Sativex comes in the form of a spray. Each container has 50 sprays which covers one course of chemotherapy. In the case of patients suffering chronic illness being treated with Sativex costs around 300 euros per year. Sativex is owned by GW Pharmaceuticals, and will be commercialised in the rest of Europe by Almirall laboratories.