Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia announced Thursday it has approved a spray containing cannabis to relieve the pain of certain illnesses.
The region's health department said it took the decision following clinical trials involving patients suffering severe pain or nausea linked to diseases such as sclerosis or cancer.
The oral spray can also be prescribed to AIDS patients who have lost their appetite or women suffering from breast cancer for whom chemotherapy is causing bouts of vomiting.
"Almost half" of the 207 patients tested in the trial, conducted in 2006 and 2007, reacted positively to the treatment, the department said.
Six Catalan hospitals took part in the trials as well as 75 pharmacies who helped patients define the daily dose of the substance they needed to stop their pain.
Catalan authorities said the product, already available in Canada, can only be sold on prescription, and doctors can only prescribe it if other pain-relieving medicine is ineffective.
Cannabis is considered an illegal drug in Spain, but its use is more tolerated than in many other European countries.