Melbourne: Researchers have found evidence for the medicinal use of cannabis in people with cancer and multiple sclerosis.Australian doctors are testing a cannabis mouth spray called Sativex in cancer patients with pain that does not respond well to traditional painkillers such as morphine.The phase-three trial is the last of several studies required for manufacturer GW Pharmaceuticals to try to license the drug in Australia.Dr Brian Le, a palliative care specialist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, said four Australian hospitals were participating in the study, which involves about 300 patients in 20 locations around the world. If the drug is found to be safe and effective, he said it could be available to Australian patients in the next few years.“This is a really good study and one that’s quite promising,” the Age quoted him as saying.A spokeswoman for Novartis, the company employed by GW Pharmaceuticals to commercialise the drug in Australia, said it was also working with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to make Sativex available to patients with multiple sclerosis who suffer from uncontrolled muscle spasticity.No pharmaceutical drugs based on cannabis are currently licensed for use in Australia. Since 2004, health authorities in the UK, Canada and Spain have licensed Sativex for patients with MS, a neurological condition that causes painful muscle stiffness in about 90 per cent of sufferers.While cannabis has been strongly associated with mental illness, Dr Le said that phase one and two trials of Sativex in more than 400 cancer patients found it relieved pain with few side effects, the most common being nausea.
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