Marijuana-based drug could help treat obesity: report

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, July 9, 2012 14:10 EDT
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An overweight woman prepares to eat a processed, meat-based food product. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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British drugmaker GW Pharmaceuticals is testing a marijuana-based drug it believes may be useful in treating obesity by suppressing the appetite, according to a published report.

While marijuana is typically known for its appetite-boosting effects, Dr. Stephen Wright, director of GW Pharma’s research and development department, told The Telegraph recently that two specific compounds have been identified that could be a godsend for obese people struggling with diabetes or even metabolic syndrome, a condition used to describe a patient suffering from a combination of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

The compounds, THCV and cannabidol, are non-psychoactive, meaning people who take this experimental drug will not experience a “high” as if they’d inhaled smoke from a burned marijuana plant. Instead, THCV acts like an inhibitor to marijuana’s main psychoactive component, THC. Added with cannabidol, GW Pharma found that THCV helps suppress the appetite, increase insulin sensitivity and reduce cholesterol in the bloodstream, all while boosting the body’s fat-burning engine.

The drug is in Phase 2 clinical trials, a round of expanded human testing where researchers hope to determine whether the compounds can actually do what they think they can do. If it proves safe and effective, the drug will then move on to Phase 3 trials, where it is given to a much larger group of test subjects in order for doctors to determine its potential risks and how it should be labeled.

Researchers said last year that they observed cannabidol inducing “programmed cell death” in breast cancer cells, which may help explain why testing at the University of South Carolina showed much better cancer survival rates in mice that were treated with marijuana-based drugs.

GW Pharma currently holds a license to grow marijuana at a secret location somewhere in Britain, even though the drug is illegal there. It uses its secret crop to produce the drug Satevix, a marijuana-based inhaler currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials in the U.S. Seven countries, including the U.K., Spain and Germany, have approved Satevix for multiple sclerosis patients.

The company says Satevix is also be useful for cancer pain and neuropathic pain — a claim recently supported by a government-sponsored study published in The Open Neurology Journal, which found the Drug Enforcement Agency’s classification of marijuana as having no medical value to be “not accurate” and “not tenable.”

GW Pharma’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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