The Brazilian government has authorized HempMeds Brasil, a unit of California-based Medical Marijuana, to import the parent company’s hemp cannabidiol (CBD) oil flagship product — known as Real Scientific Hemp Oil (RSHO) — for the management of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.
This is the first time Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária, or ANVISA), has allowed RSHO prescriptions to be written specifically for MS patients.
HempMeds Brasil became the first company in Brazil to offer legal medical cannabis products, in May 2015. The government now waives import taxes for RSHO, subsidizes its cost and covers the product under the country’s national health insurance program.
Hemp belongs to the cannabis family, but the CBD oil extracted from the plant has none of the psychoactive properties of other cannabis species, meaning patients receive the health benefits without getting high. In addition, hemp oil has high concentrations of CBD (which in itself contains healthy cannabinoids), terpenes and nutritious omega fatty acids and vitamins.
“We commend the Brazilian government for recognizing nationwide health problems that exist, including multiple sclerosis and a multitude of other chronic medical conditions, and looking for solutions that can help alleviate those problems,” Stuart Titus, Medical Marijuana’s CEO, said in a press release. “Brazil has embraced the therapeutic value of medical cannabinoids and is helping its people treat the symptoms of certain conditions with no known cure or limited treatment options.”
More than 2.5 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with MS, according to the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF). In Brazil, MS prevalence estimates vary widely, ranging between 1.36 and 27.2 per 100,000 people.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid systems (ECS) located in the brains and nervous systems of all mammals. Numerous studies have shown that such systems are directly involved in the processes that keep human bodies balanced on a daily basis — helping people manage their appetite, mood, memory, tolerance for pain, immune functions and inflammations.
The CBD in hemp oil reacts directly with some of these receptors, stimulating ECS. In fact, many people may actually have an endocannabinoid deficiency, which could be sustained by the fact that no modern dietary variant contains cannabinoids.
“Research findings suggest that cannabis could slow the neurodegenerative process of MS and help patients manage the symptoms associated with their disease,” Titus said. “For instance, one study showed cannabinoids demonstrated neuroprotective effects during an animal model of MS, reducing the damage to myelin caused from inflammation, while in another study MS patients saw significant improvements in muscle spasticity and reduced sleep disturbances after four weeks of cannabis treatments.”
Titus said HempMeds Brazil now markets a natural botanical CBD product, though the company’s pharmaceutical investment unit, AXIM Biotech, is researching a novel chewing gum delivery method involving cannabinoids to specifically treat pain and muscular spasticity in European MS patients.