The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware that cannabis and cannabis-derived products are being used for a number of medical conditions, such as AIDS wasting syndrome, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and cancer and chemotherapy-induced nausea. Despite this fact, the FDA has not yet approved a marketing application for a drug product containing or derived from the whole cannabis plant. It has, however, approved cannabinoid-based medicines derived from isolated synthetics.
Several pharmaceutical drugs have been developed which either contain or have similar chemicals as those found in the cannabis plant. Some researchers have used their understanding of how the brain processes cannabinoids to develop drugs which follow the same pathways but work differently than marijuana.
We have been fooled time and time again. Medicines touting the claim of “FDA Approved” or “FDA Registered” can lull us into into a false sense of security and safety. FDA certification of a product is never a guarantee of safety or effectiveness of anything.
Many people are curious what products the FDA supports and why. Below you will find
Drugs with chemicals taken directly from the marijuana plant
Sativex – GW Pharmaceuticals
This is a mouth spray that contains both cannabidiol (CBD) as well as THC. It is used to treat patients with multiple sclerosis who experience spasticity as well as pain associated with neuropathy — a condition that often causes numbness and weakness in the extremities. Sativex is also used in cancer patients who suffer from moderate to severe pain.
Drugs with synthetic versions of chemicals naturally found in marijuana
Marinol – Unimed Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Solvay Pharmaceuticals
Marinol is the brand name for an oral form of dronabinol (dro-NAB-in-all). It is indicated for treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional antiemetic treatments.
Drugs with chemicals similar to those in marijuana but not found in the plant
Nabilone – Valeant Pharmaceuticals International
Nabilone is a capsule developed by Valeant Pharmaceuticals that contains synthetic cannabinoids similar to THC. This product contains no real botanical properties and just mimics the affects of THC. Like the previous products, Nabilone is used to treat nausea and vomiting in cancer and AIDS patients. Cesamet has complex effects on the central nervous system. Subjects given Cesamet may experience fast heart rate, changes in mood (euphoria, detachment, depression, anxiety, panic, paranoia), confusion, unusual thoughts or behavior, and hallucinations. These phenomena appear to be more common when larger doses of Cesamet are administered; however, a full-blown picture of psychosis may occur in patients receiving doses within the lower portion of the therapeutic range.
Dexanabinol – Solvay Pharmaceuticals
Dexanabinol is another synthetic cannabis capsule that is non-psychotropic and blocks NMDA receptors and COX-2 cytokines and chemokines. It is used to protect the brain after cardiac surgery – helping to regain memory and other high-level function following traumatic brain injury. This medicine is not approved for use.
Cannabinor – Pharmos
Cannabinor is another synthetic form of cannabis that could prove useful as an anti-inflammatory drug. It also shows promise as a potential treatment for hypertension. Currently is not approved for use.
Drugs that do not work like marijuana but use the same brain pathways
Rimonabant – Sanofi-Aventis
Synthetic chemical that blocks endocannabinoids from being received in the brain, and, as a result, suppresses appetite.This product is actually an anti-cannabinoid. Currently is not approved for use. The drug was approved in June 2006 for use in Europe and marketed in the European Union; approval withdrawn by European Medicines Agency on Jan. 16, 2006 due to potential psychiatric side effects. Sanofi-Aventis then removed from it the market.
Taranabant – Merck
Targets receptors in the brain linked to appetite; acts as a Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) inverse agonist, blocking cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which suppresses appetite. Guess what – it is not approved for medical use.
The problem with medicines like Marinol is that most patients stop using it after just one round because of the side effects. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, feeling “high,” an exaggerated sense of well-being, nausea, vomiting, and stomach/abdominal pain. The botanical version of cannabis boasts a number of positive side effects that are absent in its synthetic versions. There is overwhelming evidence that the efficacy of cannabis depends on the interaction of several or all of the compounds of whole plant medicine to create the so-called entourage effect. But there is less profit incentive for pharmaceutical companies to sell actual cannabis or whole plant extracts than there is to isolate and synthesize its components.