France to Test Medical Marijuana in study of 3,000 Patients

Patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, some types of epilepsy and neuropathic pain refractory to conventional medicines will have access to cannabis derivatives under hospital surveillance.

French lawmakers on Friday approved an experimental bill authorizing the use of medical marijuana to treat some serious illnesses. For two years, 3,000 patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, some types of epilepsy and neuropathic pain refractory to conventional medicines will have access to cannabis derivatives under hospital surveillance.

These patients may take combinations of cannabidiol (CBD) and THC, two cannabis derivatives, prescribed by the specialist who accompanies them on a daily basis. Initially, the person will withdraw the product at the pharmacy from an accredited hospital that will monitor the entire treatment. If all goes well, the patient can buy therapeutic cannabis at any drugstore.

The French Medicines Agency (ANSM) has authorized various presentations of cannabis derivatives: in the form of oils, herbal teas and dried cannabis flowers, intended for inhalation administration. The first group of participants is expected to begin treatment in the first half of 2020. The public health system will pay the costs.

Running after the delay
Currently 21 countries out of the 28 members of the European Union authorize medical cannabis to varying degrees. France is lagging behind compared to its neighbors. Therefore, this experimental protocol is considered an advance and should contribute to clarify the benefits and eventual negative points of the prescription. In two years, the expectation is that the use of the product will be expanded.

The author of the bill, Rep. Olivier Veran, is a neurologist doctor. He explains that therapeutic marijuana needs to be adjusted for each patient: some feel better only with cannabidiol, which promotes muscle relaxation, others with a combination of cannabidiol with THC, the psychoactive substance of marijuana. Veran considers it essential to observe the effects of these substances in a scientific study and not to let people self-medicate without follow-up, as is currently the case.

French doctors often prescribe treatment to those in need. With the recipe in hand, many French people seek medical cannabis in neighboring countries, where it is no longer prohibited. A 2013 decree authorized some drugs to treat multiple sclerosis to use cannabidiol in their composition, but the products never reached pharmacies for lack of agreement on the final price.

The French Medicines Agency (ANSM) estimates that between 300,000 and 1 million French could have their pain relieved by the use of medical marijuana. But as the product takes time to be legalized, patients are looking for home solutions. Many French people started growing the plant at home and making teas and pellets to put under their tongues, as the taste of the plant seems to be quite bad. Others resort to the famous “spacecakes”, plant-made cakes and traditional ingredients.

The problem is that there are different types of cannabis, and the concentration of components varies from plant to plant. Patients struggle to find the ideal formula that can alleviate their health problem. Most resort to self-medication, consulting books and scientific articles. Others say they can buy THC, the psychoactive principle of marijuana, over the internet, but feel helpless because they don’t know what they are actually consuming.

As French law prohibits, but European law authorizes the sale of products with a THC rate of less than 0.2%, stores have started to market low concentration formulas. However, for some patients, the dose is insufficient to placate the pain.

The bill passed by lawmakers on Friday does not yet allow cannabis to be planted in France. Health authorities will have to source themselves abroad. In Europe, four countries have legalized marijuana cultivation for this purpose: the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal and Greece.

Worldwide, therapeutic marijuana is already authorized in about 30 countries. Canada pioneered in 2001. Then came Israel in 2006, and recently the United States, where 33 states regularized treatment. What is important, according to the advocates, is that the conditions of use and medical monitoring are well defined.

Among Europeans, France is a record in marijuana use, especially among young people. On the other hand, the medical profession has not yet reached consensus on the benefits of its medicinal use.

Shortly after the vote in the National Assembly, French President Emmanuel Macron said the Ministry of Health is working on a solution for the therapeutic use of cannabis. But he pointed out that he remains opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana.

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France to Test Medical Marijuana - /10

Summary

Patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, some types of epilepsy and neuropathic pain refractory to conventional medicines will have access to cannabis derivatives under hospital surveillance.

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