Big Pharma pushes for patents of pot-based pills
I found this statistic surprising: in 1994 there were only two pot-based pharmaceutical drugs in development in the US, while in 2004 there were 27. That's a big leap, one that could potentially hold some clout in determining government policy. Interestingly, the world's first cannabis-based prescription pharmaceutical, Sativex, comes in the form of a spray.
Big Pharma is busily applying for -- and has already received -- multiple patents for the medical properties of pot. These include patents for synthetic pot derivatives (such as the oral THC pill Marinol), cannabinoid agonists (synthetic agents that bind to the brain's endocannabinoid receptors) like HU-210 and cannabis antagonists such as Rimonabant. This trend was most recently summarized in the NIH paper (pdf), "The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy," which concluded, "The growing interest in the underlying science has been matched by a growth in the number of cannabinoid drugs in pharmaceutical development from two in 1995 to 27 in 2004." In other words, at the same time the American Medical Association is proclaiming that pot has no medical value, Big Pharma is in a frenzy to bring dozens of new, cannabis-based medicines to market.
Not all of these medicines will be synthetic pills either. Most notably, GW Pharmaceutical's oral marijuana spray, Sativex, is a patented standardized dose of natural cannabis extracts. (The extracts, primarily THC and the non-psychoactive, anxiolytic compound CBD, are taken directly from marijuana plants grown at an undisclosed, company warehouse.)
As the private sector continues to move forward with research into the safety and efficacy of marijuana-based pharmaceuticals, it will become harder and harder for the government and law enforcement to maintain their absurd and illogical policy of total pot prohibition.
Approved by Health Canada under a licence with conditions (NOC/c) for prescription use in April 2005, Sativex is the world's first artificial pharmaceutical prescription medicine derived from the cannabis plant. The product is approved in Canada as adjunctive treatment for the symptomatic relief of neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis. In June 2007, Health Canada issuing a Qualifying Notice for the approval of Sativex in the relief of cancer pain, with the final approval of this indication expected by fall 2007.