Cannabis on prescription only for a few

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Cannabis spray for MS therapy approved for the first time in France

For some time now, doctors and scientists have been studying the healing effects of cannabis. In France, a so-called cannabis derivative has now been approved as a medicine by the ANSM.

A brief statement on the change in drug laws
"However, the drug with cannabis active ingredients has been approved for a few patient groups," said the French Ministry of Health in a short statement to the press. Experts see this approval as more than just a drug release. It represents a fundamental U-turn in French drug policy. Since 2011, seriously ill people in Germany have been able to have cannabis prescribed for them. However, the hurdles are very high. As in France, the approval only applies to seriously ill people.

So far, not only the trade in cannabis, but also the production and consumption of cannabis products has been prohibited by law in France. Since 1953, pharmacies have also had to remove the actually traditional remedies from naturopathy, since the narcotic fundamentally prohibited any use, including medical ones. But now a small revolution is taking place in France. The delivery of the soft drug in the form of the prescription drug Sativex by the British pharmaceutical manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals should take place under strict medical and official supervision, but the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was not removed from the agent. The THC is also the actually indexed substance, as this leads to the intoxicating conditions.

Medicines used as oral spray
The agent is distributed in the form of a mouth spray. In addition to the THC mentioned, it also contains cannabidiol. The spray is used in the symptomatic treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Some clinical studies indicate that THC is antispasmodic and relieves pain. Patients themselves also increasingly pointed to this context. Numerous MS sufferers planted themselves to improve their symptomatic condition. It was known to many doctors that many patients with MS smoked cannabis despite the ban.

This drug, which has already been approved in England and other European countries, is now officially on the market in France. To do this, however, the parliament had to change the legislation, since all consumption, be it for health reasons, was prohibited.

Overdue progress
Patrick Vermersch from the University Clinic of Lille rates the ANSM decision as a "long overdue progress". The now approved drug for patients with MS is a remedy for certain patient groups for whom there are no other remedies, since none respond. The expert bases his statement on a small study by his clinic. Twenty patients responded well to the drug. Nevertheless, the doctor warned of possible psychological side effects, since particularly stressed patients were more prone to side effects. These "must be monitored and supplied more specifically," says Vermersch.

Drug also approved in Germany
MS and AIDS patients can also use the named drug in Germany. Since 2011, the spray can be prescribed by a doctor. The regulations are also strict in this country. Only patients who have severe illnesses are given it. According to the manufacturers, it can reduce intraocular pressure, relieve nausea and vomiting, help with loss of appetite and contain nerves and spastic pain.

The Federal Joint Committee in Germany, which is responsible, among other things, for reviewing the medical benefits, was rather skeptical in a statement. There are "good experiences", but clinical studies are not very meaningful. Therefore, only a "minor additional benefit" can be seen. (sb)

Image: Susanne Schmich /

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