Saturday, May 20, 2006

Science Saturday III: Medical Marijuana Update

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration adamantly refuses to acknowledge the benefits of medical marijuana, but has approved the use of a second synthetic version of the active ingredient of pot that is being marketed as a treatment for the vomiting and nausea that often accompany chemotherapy.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International hopes to begin selling Cesamet in the next two to three weeks.

The Costa Mesa, California, company received FDA approval this week to resume sales of the drug, which it bought from Eli Lilly and Co. in 2004. Valeant currently sells the drug, also called nabilone, in Canada.

Lilly originally received FDA approval for nabilone in 1985 but withdrew it from the market in 1989 for commercial reasons.

The drug will compete with Marinol, made by Belgium-based Solvay SA. Marinol, another synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana that's more commonly known as THC. It also received FDA approval in 1985.

Cesamet is a Schedule II drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. The 1-milligram tablets are meant to be taken twice daily before cancer patients undergo chemotherapy and up to 48 hours following treatment. Side effects include euphoria, drowsiness, vertigo and dry mouth.

For more on medical marijuana madness, see my April 23 post on The FDA Blows It on Marijuana.

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