By Andy Coghlan | Published in New Scientist
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has elevated a drug based on cannabis to the big league by signing a deal to sell it in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The drug combines two active components of cannabis to combat involuntary muscle movements in people with multiple sclerosis.
Made by GW Pharmaceuticals in Porton Down, UK, Sativex is already on sale in the UK and Spain, and is being trialled for cancer pain relief in the US.
“Attracting a company the calibre of Novartis does send a final message that there’s serious science supporting this area,” says Justin Gover, managing director of GW Pharma.
But Gover rejects any suggestion that Sativex’s progress adds respectability to the use of herbal marijuana to treat pain and medical conditions. “If anything it makes it less respectable, because we have an alternative that is a standardised, specific and well-determined medicine,” he says. “Medical marijuana is an approach of the past.”