Cannabis inhalers in first legal health test
PATIENTS in Britain's first clinical trial of cannabis will take the drug
through an inhaler similar to those used by asthma sufferers.
The device, to be unveiled this month, will use vapours from heated
cannabis aimed at giving quick pain relief to hundreds of multiple
sclerosis, neuralgia and glaucoma sufferers taking part in the trial. The
cannabis, a brown viscous liquid, will be heated in a laboratory oven and
placed in the inhaler, the size of a mobile phone. The patient will inhale
the vapours through a tube under medical supervision. Pain relief is
expected in minutes. Eventually, it is planned the heating mechanism will
be incorporated into the inhaler.
The drug, which produces an analgesic effect in small quantities and a
"high" in larger amounts, is only activated when heated. It is hoped that
the trial, involving 900 patients over a three-year period, will begin in
July, subject to approval by the Medicines Control Agency. One hundred
patients are being selected for the early stages.
Most patients will be MS sufferers but there will also be people with
neuralgia, glaucoma and post-operative pain. The dosage will be large
enough to relieve pain but not enough to make them "high". If the drug is
shown to ease symptoms without side-effects, doctors could be prescribing
it to some of the country's 85,000 MS sufferers within five years.
Inhaler technology has existed for some years but GW Pharmaceuticals -
which is conducting the trial - has been working with the manufacturers for
a year to adapt it for cannabis use. Mark Rogerson, a spokesman for GW
Pharmaceuticals, said: "The most important thing is being able to replicate
the beneficial effects of inhaling cannabis without the harmful effects of
smoking and that's why so much effort has gone into making this inhaler."
(Source: The Daily Telegraph
Sunday, June 13 1999)