from Everyday Health
MONDAY, Jan. 23, 2012 — A British company has submitted the first drug developed from marijuana to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval. Called Sativex and administered in oral spray form, the drug contains two of the best-known components of marijuana, delta-9-THC (better known as just THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and cannabidiol, which has been found to have pain-fighting properties.
Sativex has already been approved in Canada, New Zealand, and eight European nations (including the United Kingdom) for relieving muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. According to the Associated Press, the developers of the drug, GW Pharmaceuticals, are hoping to have the drug on the U.S. market by 2013, with an indication for treating cancer pain.
If Sativex is approved in the United States, it could increase pressure on the government to encourage American companies to develop other drugs based on marijuana. A synthetic version of THC, Marinol (dronabinol), is FDA-approved to treatchemotherapy side effects like nausea and vomiting, as well as loss of appetite and weight loss in people with AIDS.
But medical marijuana advocates, like the group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), are worried that having more prescription products available will give the government justification to prohibit marijuana use. Speaking to the Associated Press, Kris Hermes of the ASA said, "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."
According to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report, about a third of all Americans, or more than 116 million people, are currently living with chronic pain. But despite many studies showing the benefits of medical marijuana in helping pain patients, its use is still a hot topic in the United States — most recently in California, where the state's supreme court will review whether cities and counties can ban medical marijuana stores, despite the drug's legalization there.