US Researchers Turn to Canada for Quality Cannabis Extracts
The US government has approved the importation of marijuana extracts from Canada for a clinical trial, highlighting a new path for American researchers who have trouble obtaining the drug for medical studies.
The University of California San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research announced Tuesday the Drug Enforcement Administration has OK’d its plans to import capsules containing 2 Key cannabis compounds, CBD and THC from British Columbia-based Tilray Inc (NYSE:TRLY). to study their effectiveness in treating tremors that afflict millions of people, especially those over 65.
Marijuana remains illegal under US federal law, making it impossible for researchers to simply obtain forms of the drug from any one of the many medical marijuana programs approved by individual states.
Instead, federal law dictates that researchers typically must obtain any cannabis for clinical trials through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which uses cannabis grown at the University of Mississippi.
Scientists have long complained about the difficulty of obtaining that marijuana, as well as its limited quality, variety and usefulness for clinical research.
The University of California San Diego researchers said they needed marijuana extracts in capsule form because it’s easier to monitor the doses that patients receive, compared to having patients smoke or vaporize it. They also believed many older patients would be reluctant to participate in the study if they had to inhale the drug, according to Dr. Fatta Nahab, a UCSD neurologist and the tremor study’s principal investigator.
NIDA does not offer capsules, so the researchers spent about two years going through regulatory hoops to obtain permission to import the drug from Canada, where medical marijuana is federally legal and where recreational sales begin nationwide next month.
And that illustrates how badly American researchers need alternative sources for cannabis.
The House Judiciary Committee last week passed a bill to require the Justice Department to issue at least 2 more licenses to US facilities to grow marijuana and cannabis for research.
Marijuana compounds have been imported for clinical trials before, including by Britain-based GW Pharmaceuticals, which won approval this year to sell its purified CBD capsule, Epidiolex, to treat severe forms of epilepsy, the 1st cannabis drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
GW Pharmaceuticals developed that drug in-house before bringing it to the US for testing, While, Tilray, which recently became the 1st marijuana company to complete an IPO in the US, said it can work directly with researchers to develop the cannabis formulations they hope to study.
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