Cannabis-Based Oral Spray Patented for Pain

By Dirk Hanson 05/20/11

GW Pharmaceuticals in Britain has been working on Sativex for a decade now as a medication for muscle spasms and cancer pain. But will the FDA let them market it here?

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Cannabis mist melts in your mouth.
Photo via gwpharm

Have a spritz of this: Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals has moved one step closer to offering Sativex, its cannabis-based spray product, in the U.S. after receiving patent approval  for use of Sativex in the treatment of cancer pain. Users spray the cannabis mist under their tongues for treatment. Sativex is currently seeking FDA approval to offer the cannabis spray in the U.S., and is in the midst of a series of clinical trials. The company already sells Sativex in Europe as a treatment for the spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. Last month, GW Pharmaceuticals licensed drugmaker Novartis to sell Sativex in Australia, and in parts of Asia and Africa.

GW Pharmaceuticals has been working on Sativex for more than a decade now, as a medication for  multiple sclerosis patients, as well as for patients suffering from advanced cancers. Chairman Geoffrey Guy said that the company was “transitioning from a late-stage development company to a commercial pharmaceutical business with excellent growth prospects.”

GW Pharmaceuticals won earlier regulatory approval for the use of Sativex in Canada back in 2005. It is intended primarily as an “add-on treatment for symptom improvement,” according to The Pharma Letter, in patients “who have not responded adequately to other anti-spasticity medication.” The company hopes Sativex can find a much larger market in the United States, but approval is an uphill battle in a nation that has not been eager to move forward with marijuana-based medicines.

The company, which grows its marijuana in undisclosed locations in England, says marketing agreements with Bayer of Germany and Almirall of Spain could add up to more than $20 million annually from those companies alone.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]