Questions and Answers About SATIVEX? Liquid Medical Marijuana
What is Sativex?
Sativex is a natural marijuana extract developed by a British company, GW Pharmaceuticals. It is a liquid that is sprayed into the mouth. Made from marijuana plants bred for specific levels of various active components, called cannabinoids, Sativex is similar to marijuana-based extracts and tinctures that were legally available in the United States until 1937. (Such products were manufactured by major drug companies and sold through pharmacies until the federal government banned marijuana in 1937.)
Is Sativex like Marinol®, the prescription THC pill?
No. Marinol contains only a synthetic version of THC, which is just one of marijuana's approximately 60 active components, called cannabinoids. Sativex contains THC and other cannabinoids, as well as other compounds contained in the marijuana plant, which scientists believe contribute to marijuana's therapeutic benefits.
So Sativex is a lot like natural marijuana?
Yes. Sativex is, for all practical purposes, liquid medical marijuana. In essence, Sativex is to marijuana as a cup of coffee is to coffee beans.
Is it true that, unlike marijuana, Sativex doesn't produce a "high"?
Sativex and marijuana are nearly identical in this regard: Most medical marijuana users obtain relief without becoming intoxicated, and the same is true of Sativex. While both contain THC, the component that produces marijuana's "high," both also contain other natural plant components which moderate its effects, and both allow users to adjust their dose as needed to obtain relief without intoxication.
What conditions has Sativex been tested for?
Most testing thus far has been done on patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and various types of chronic pain, including cancer pain. These studies have shown Sativex to have strong benefits and mild side effects, and patients do not develop a tolerance to it (meaning they do not have to increase the dosage to continue receiving the same therapeutic benefi ts). Further tests are planned for other conditions, but Sativex research has already provided definitive proof of marijuana's medical safety and efficacyconfirming that virtually everything the U.S. government has told us about marijuana is wrong.
Is Sativex licensed for prescription sale anywhere?
The Canadian government approved the prescription sale of Sativex on April 19, 2005. An application is also pending in Great Britain, which could be granted by the end of 2005.
Why wasn't Sativex developed in the U.S.?
The federal government has done everything in its power to prevent effective research on the therapeutic benefits of marijuana from proceeding in the United States. For example, in December 2004, after a three-and-a-half-year delay, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration turned down a proposal by the University of Massachusetts to establish a facility to manufacture marijuana. Such a facility would be needed in order for a company located in this country to develop a product like Sativex, made from specially-developed strains of natural marijuana.
Will Americans be able to purchase Sativex in Canada and bring it into the U.S.?
No. Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law, doing so would be a felony. Indeed, importing less than 50 kilograms of marijuanaeven a small amount of marijuana for medical useis punishable by up to five years in federal prison.
Will Sativex be available in U.S pharmacies?
Not in the foreseeable future. U.S. testing hasn't begun, and the federal government has given no indication that it will even allow such testing to proceed. Because of this, approval by the FDA is most likely years away and may never occur.
Will Sativex eliminate the need for medical marijuana?
No. Sativex acts far more slowly than marijuana that is inhaled (as through a vaporizer). According to the company's official product information, peak blood levels aren't reached for more than an hour and a half -- about as slowly as Marinol, which many doctors and patients consider unacceptably slow. Sativex is also expensive -- about $3 Canadian per spray, or about $15 per day at the average dose. In addition, patients have found that different strains of marijuana provide the best relief for different conditions, so Sativex is unlikely to benefit every patient who currently benefits (or could benefit) from whole marijuana. Sativex is simply another form of medical marijuana, and patients and doctors should be able to choose what works best for each patient’s particular situation. If, after years of research, the FDA were to approve Sativex as a prescription medicine in the U.S., arresting and jailing patients for using herbal marijuana would make no more sense than allowing people to drink coffee while jailing them for possessing coffee beans.