The 2012 and 2014 ballots approving legalization of cannabis in four U.S. states have stirred the pot, so to speak, on a wide range of issues and nuances related to the herb — not least marijuana’s clinical use as a therapeutic agent. Medical marijuana remains a topic of debate in the health sciences community, but currently the sale and possession of marijuana is legal for both medical and non-medical use in four states: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, and 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
As a public health issue, there are many nuances related to the use of cannabis, whether medicinally or recreationally, including its effectiveness — or not — in treating the astonishing range of disorders, including Multiple Sclerosis (MS), for which it is claimed by advocates to be beneficial. However, current scientific research either pro or con cannot be regarded as conclusive if for no other reason than that there is so relatively little of it for a variety of reasons, particularly bureaucratic and judicial roadblocks to legal acquisition of marijuana for research purposes, which inhibits approval and funding of marijuana research.
NEMUS Bioscience Inc. is a biopharmaceutical startup that hopes to help bridge the cannabis clinical research gap. The company’s activities are primarily focused on research, development and commercialization of a diverse range of new medicines and other chemicals derived from cannabinoids, a class of chemical compounds extracted from the Cannabis Sativa herb of the Hemp family, one of which — tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — is the psychoactive constituent in marijuana. In addition to Cannabis Sativa, there are more than 100 cannabinoids — some of which are believed to have powerful medicinal and therapeutic qualities.
NEMUS’s corporate vision is to offer physicians and patients “condition-specific” cannabinoid-based medicines designed to alleviate symptoms associated with a range of diseases, and to become a leading developer of cannabis-based therapeutics to address unmet medical needs on a global basis.
More and more studies worldwide are finding that chemically diverse cannabis compounds can be effective in alleviating symptoms of a variety of diseases, including some seriously progressive and debilitating ones like Multiple Sclerosis. Cannabinoids act specifically in the human body through CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are found in the brain and throughout the body, and are involved in many physiological processes, as well as having an impact on the immune system, the nervous system and the body’s organs. With medical marijuana becoming legal in more states, NEMUS Bioscience is responding with the development of a novel and proprietary class of product candidates that are designed to hone in on the body’s nervous and immune systems without inducing the sort of undesirable side-effects typically associated with currently available therapeutic medications for MS and other neurological diseases.
Drugs used to treat MS include Dantrium, Baclofen (Medtronic), Zanaflex, Klonopin (Clonazepam) and Valium (diazepam), which come with a list of side effects ranging from feeling lightheaded or drowsy, to slurred speech, blurred vision, changes in sexual drive and performance, gastrointestinal changes, muscle spasms and a fast or pounding heartbeat. Benzodiazepines (medicines with names typically ending in “pam”) are also highly addictive and can have nasty withdrawal effects.
By contrast, a major 2008 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ June 17, 2008 vol. 178 no. 13 1669-1678) of safety studies on medical cannabinoids over the past 40 years found marijuana-use associated with virtually no elevated incidences of serious adverse side-effects. The study, “Adverse effects of medical cannabinoids: a systematic review” (CMAJ. Jun 17, 2008; 178(13): 1669–1678. dpi: 10.1503/cmaj.071178 PMCID: PMC2413308), was co-authored by Tongtong Wang, MSc, Jean-Paul Collet, PhD MD, Stan Shapiro, PhD, and Mark A. Ware, MBBS MSc, who note that “The therapeutic use of cannabis and cannabis-based medicines raises safety concerns for patients, clinicians, policy-makers, insurers, researchers and regulators. Although the efficacy of cannabinoids is being increasingly demonstrated in randomized controlled trials, most safety information comes from studies of recreational use.”
Advocates also note that benefits of medical cannabis that many MS patients have reported include improvements in muscle spasms, tremors, balance, bladder control, speech, and eyesight, with MS Patients reporting that smoking medical marijuana reduces symptoms such as muscle stiffness and tremors, and allows for greater mobility. Scientifically, a 2012 study led by Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Plymouth Centre for Clinical Trials & Health Research John Zajicek found that a standardized dose containing the cannabis extract, tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), improved muscle stiffness in people with MS.
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