Health Canada has given the stamp of approval to a cannabis-derived drug to be used in the treatment of cancer. The drug has been in the Canadian market for the last two years, being sold for pain relief in multiple sclerosis patients.
The drug which goes by the name Sativex is to be sold as an added pain relief treatment for adults with advanced cancer who have moderate to severe pain when using the highest tolerated dose of strong opioid therapy.
Studies were conducted in patients with advanced cancer who were experiencing pain that proved impossible to treat with traditional strong opioid medication such as morphine. All patients remained on their original medication during the trial, but those who were also treated with Sativex experienced a statistically significant reduction in pain relief compared to those on placebo.
In patients with advanced cancer who were already taking the strongest possible pain medication, Sativex was able to achieve a reduction in pain in almost half of the subjects.
According to the manufacturers Bayer Inc. , patients can self-administer Sativex by spraying it into the mouth either under the tongue or on the inside of the cheek.
Various pain studies give that advanced cancers usually cannot be cured, and many of these patients will experience moderate to severe pain.
"Cancer pain is not managed as well as it could be and the resources available to manage cancer pain effectively are still somewhat limited," says Dr. Lawrence Librach, director of the Temmy Latner Center for Palliative Care at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. "Cannabinoids have an important role in treating complex cancer pain particularly neuropathic pain and demonstrate a positive effect with current treatment options", he adds.
Currently opioids, which are narcotic drugs, are used in treatments to reduce or manage pain.Opioid cancer pain medications, such as the mainstay drug morphine, are often associated with unpleasant side effects, but Sativex side effects are limited to mild or moderate cases of nausea, fatigue, and dizziness and application site reactions.