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Cannabis-Derived Drug Launches in UK

June 21, 2010
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A drug manufactured from cannabis went on sale in the U.K. as a treatment for symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Sativex, which is made from cannabis plants grown at secret locations in England by developer GW Pharmaceuticals PLC, is the first prescription drug made from cannabis to officially go on sale anywhere in the world, reports the Wall Street Journal. It offers legal access to the beneficial effects of an illegal drug that thousands of multiple-sclerosis sufferers have smoked in an attempt to relieve their pain. Sativex was approved by the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, as a treatment for spasticity in multiple- sclerosis patients who aren''t benefiting from other treatments. It had been in development for 11 years. Germany’s Bayer AG will market the drug in the U.K. Sativex doesn''t work for everyone. Bayer estimates about 11,500 people in the U.K. will be eligible for treatment with Sativex but only about half of them will get a good response. Spain is expected to be the next country to approve Sativex for sale. Almirall SA holds the drug''s marketing license in Spain and is GW''s partner for the rest of Europe, excluding the U.K. Analysts at brokers Nomura Code Securities and KBC Peel Hunt estimate that a bigger potential prize exists in the U.S., where Sativex is being developed as a painkiller for cancer patients. GW and U.S. partner Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. of Japan are scheduled to meet with the Food and Drug Administration this summer to discuss Phase III trials.
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