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Cannabis medicines have tremendous therapeutic potential but reliable studies are still lacking

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For more than twenty years now, international research in endocannabinoid system In the human body seeks to understand the way cannabis and its components work. There is ample evidence of the therapeutic success of using cannabis for indications such as epilepsy or pain treatment, not only as an adjunct but as a first-class treatment. However, there is still insufficient data for the development of safe cannabis-based drugs in Austria, which is why a research group led by neurobiologist Tibor Harkani from the Midoni Vienna Department of Molecular Neurosciences summarized the enormous therapeutic potential for the medical use of cannabis in a recent publication reviewing the article in The leading journal “Science”.

Difficult socio-political discourse is hindering progress in the development of medicinal products containing ingredients from the medicinal cannabis plant. On the one hand, there is a constant danger that cannabis will be misused as medicine, and on the other hand, there is a current trend of increased demand for products containing cannabinoids that are freely available in the market.

Tibor Harkani, a neurobiologist and head of the Department of Molecular Neurosciences at the Midoni Center for Brain Research, notes a paradoxical phenomenon: “We know that cannabis can be used for many diseases, and to some extent, we also know how it works. But the fact that there are so many products on the market is It also gives the impression that it helps with everything and nothing. But, in fact, hemp is not a miracle plant; it has very specific uses and we urgently need a number of science, evidence-based clinical trials on this topic.”

The clinical effects of cannabis-containing drugs are mostly due to the activation of endogenous cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The most abundant substances from the cannabis plant are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the latter of which has no psychoactive effects. From anecdotal observations to to date international clinical trials, the analgesic, anxiolytic, antiepileptic, antipsychotic, analgesic, and neuroprotective effects have been traced back to CBD. Currently, CBD is approved in some countries for the treatment of refractory epilepsy and spastic paralysis. In Austria, the drug Sativex containing CBD is approved to treat multiple sclerosis and convulsions, and Epidiolex is approved to treat certain hereditary forms of epilepsy. Dronabinol is also given as an adjunct to chronic pain and in the treatment of cancer.

Even Harkany stresses the possibility of using cannabis as a first-class treatment for epilepsy, because it will have a rapid and appropriate effect on the progression of the disease.

Psychiatrist Siegfried Kasper, Head Emeritus of the Department of MedUni in Vienna Psychiatry The psychotherapist, who has extensive experience in clinical studies of this nature and collaborates with Harkany on many projects in favor of multidisciplinary research, summarizes: “It is very important for both the university sector and the pharmaceutical companies to embark on baseline and multiplex studies in order to give us a better understanding of the specific effects of cannabis. There will be a great future if we can standardize the application forms of cannabis ingredients and then conduct research using standardized extracts in tailored clinical trials.” Both scientists are united in their conviction that “cannabis should be introduced into evidence-based medicine”.

source:

Journal reference:

Keimpema, E., et al. (2021) The biological basis of cannabis drugs. Mechanistic insights into cannabinoid signaling could lead to improved therapeutic applications. Science. doi.org/10.1126/science.abf6099.

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