The Truth About Sativex

    Originally published 19th October 2010

    Sativex is super strong, concentrated cannabis.  Nothing more, nothing less.

    GW Pharmaceuticals would have you believe that it’s a “pharmaceutical” product because according to its research that’s what patients prefer.  As the GW spokesman puts it, “It’s a pharmaceutical solution, formulated with the ability to deliver a precise dose and with stringent standards of quality, safety and efficacy”.

    In fact, what GW does is grow high quality cannabis under pretty much the same conditions as most illegal growers.   It uses clonal propagation to ensure consistent levels of cannabinoids.  Lighting and hydroponic nutrition is computer controlled with automatic ventilation. It really is no different from the most sophisticated and efficient illegal cannabis farms.  It’s a recognised and proven technology now also used by Bedrocan in Holland, the Dutch government’s exclusive medicinal cannabis grower and Gropech in California which is building a new 60,000 sq ft facility in Oakland for an annual harvest worth $50 million.

    Bedrocan Grow

    The difference between these crops from legal and illegal growers is insignificant.  It’s similar to buying your tomatoes from the supermarket or the farm shop.

    GW Grow

    GW takes its high quality cannabis, chops it up and makes a tincture by heating it under pressure with CO2 and then adding ethanol to precipitate an oil. Then, with the addition of a little peppermint oil to mask the taste and some preservative, the filtered liquid is packaged into tiny little aerosol bottles.  Each spray delivers 2.7mg of THC and 2.5mg of CBD.  What GW doesn’t tell you that it also contains all the other 100+  cannabinoids found in the plant, each of which has its own mechanism of action and effect.  It also contains flavonoids, terpines and other compounds.  Everything that is found in the plant.

    Illegal Grow

    I applaud GW Pharmaceuticals for bringing the enormous benefits of cannabinoid therapy into the 21st century. It’s nothing new though. The medicinal value of the plant has been known and widely used for thousands of years.  Only in the last century has it been demonised by lies and propaganda.  It would be a mistake though to think that Sativex is anything different from the plant itself.  It’s just been wrapped up in a marketing and physical package which has enabled stupid and cowardly politicians to accept it.

    In fact, Sativex remains just as illegal in Britain as herbal cannabis.  Even though it has received MHRA approval for use in the treatment of MS spasticity and may be prescribed by a doctor, it remains a schedule 1 drug under the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971.  The Home Office has indicated that it intends to amend the law but has not yet done so.  This means that any pharmacist who dispenses Sativex at present would be guilty of exactly the same criminal offence as any street dealer in weed or hash.

    The Home Office will, of course, turn a blind eye to this but not to medicinal herbal cannabis even though, in every sense, it is identical to Sativex (except that Sativex also contains alcohol and peppermint oil).  The stark idiocy of British law is revealed.

    Never before has there been a better example of the how the law is an ass and so are the spineless politicians who support it.

    Update

    In 2011 the Home Office issued what it calls an “Open General Licence” for Sativex allowing it to be prescribed and dispensed.  A doctor may prescribe Sativex for its approved purposed “spasticity in MS” or, “off label”, for any condition he or she believes it to be beneficial for.  However, “off label” prescriptions are the doctor’s personal responsibility so it is easy to understand why doctors may be hesitant to do so.

    Most PCTs and health authorities are refusing to fund Sativex because of the extraordinarily high price that GW and its UK distributors Bayer want to charge the NHS.  At about £175 per bottle, Sativex costs around 10 times what organised crime sells cannabis for on the streets.  Products that are pharmacologically identical to Sativex are available from medical marijuana dispensaries in the US for around $20 per bottle (usually containing much more than the GW product).  Alta California offers three varieties of a Sativex-type tincture with different cannabinoid ratios for different purposes.

    In June 2011, CLEAR and Action4MS announced a joint venture Access Sativex which will seek to organise and help people apply for Sativex.

    The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has recommended that Sativex be  placed in schedule four of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MoDA).  The chair, Professor Les Iversen, wrote to the Home Office on 14th January 2011 with this advice but nothing has been done.  It is easy to understand why.  As Professor Iversen wrote:  “The ACMD is also aware that it will not be appropriate to refer to “Sativex”, which is a proprietary name, in any amendment to the misuse of drugs regulations, and that a suitable description of the relevant component(s) of “Sativex” will have to be scheduled”.

    There is no honest or accurate way to describe Sativex except to say that it is cannabis.  The Home Office is on the record as saying that “the future scheduling of this medicinal product will not affect the classification of cannabis” which is unambiguous evidence of an intention to deceive.

    Perhaps the most important truth to emerge from this story of deceit and disinformation is the statement made by Professor H.P. Hartung, Chair of Neurology at Heinrich-Heine University, Dusseldorf, Germany on 24th October 2011.  He was commenting on data from three Phase III trials involving over 1,500 MS patients as well as first everyday clinical practice data were presented by a panel of international experts at the European Congress of Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) in Amsterdam.

    “Sativex® has proven to reduce the severity of symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life and functional status, in patients with spasticity in multiple sclerosis, meaning that they can undertake everyday tasks more easily. Also, importantly, clinical experience to date has demonstrated that the tolerability profile of this medicine is favourable, with limited relevant adverse effects and – particularly reassuring – the drug does not appear to lead to withdrawal effects if patients suddenly stop using it.”

    • John

      I’m not sure Sativex is a good thing to support. It’s a more expensive alternative to cannabis which is made by a big pharmaceutical company and endorsed by people who are afraid of cannabis. I can’t help but think that this will become the governments go to drug leaving cannabis as the “bad version” only used by “criminals”

    • http://twitter.com/WeedBaker Mark Baker

      We need more of this Peter, I really do think this could be the year for serious, positive changes to our archaic laws…. how can our Politicians continue to ignore the ridiculous amount of evidence now available? Let hope the Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Drugs will actually do some good – perhaps its the excuse our Government has been looking for??? I’ll be incredibly shocked if they come out with the same old tired prohibition stance – surely not??!

      Either way, Sativex is cannabis, plain and simple – I keep harping on about it to anyone I can and I hope more Clear members do the same…. the more people we can educate the quicker we’ll have an effect.

    • Anonymous

      Mark / John  - this is the script I use for my comment warrioring .  Hopefully this gets across to a largish audience.  So far I don’t think I have had anyone complain/disagree/comment.  That’s either because they ignore it because it’s too long  or they take in on board and can’t find fault ?   Comments welcome:

      “The
      government’s mates grow and sell it – why not arrest them??

      The
      scientists in charge of the government licensed ‘cannabis factory’,
      growing up to 30 tons of high quality herb a year, run by GW
      Pharmaceuticals, based on a Kent science park, now state
      categorically that cannabis is safe and effective. This is not
      fiction – it’s absolutely true Surely it is time to apply the
      Misuse of Drugs Act correctly and get cannabis properly controlled
      and taxed.

      GWP
      have said of their whole plant extract Sativex ‘…extensive studies
      have been conducted before satisfying the regulators of the
      safety,efficacy and quality of the medicine enough to issue us with
      marketing authorisation…’

      At
      a conference at GWP’s headquarters in Porton Down, Wiltshire,
      Professor H.P. Hartung, Chair of Neurology at Heinrich-Heine
      University, Dusseldorf announced that Sativex, the super strong,
      concentrated cannabis medicine has “…limited relevant adverse
      effects and – particularly reassuring – the drug does not appear
      to lead to withdrawal effects if patients suddenly stop using
      it.”Geoffrey
      Guy, Chairman of GWP is quoted as saying:”My
      professional view of cannabis as a substance is that it appears to be
      a remarkably safe substance in comparison to most medicines
      prescribed today. The more I learn about this plant the more
      fascinated I become. It has through its various constituents multiple
      effects of therapeutic interest, many of which are now being
      validated by the enormous growth in basic cannabinoid research.”

      Also
      he said “We have embarked on a substantial Phase III programme for
      Sativex in cancer pain, a major market opportunity…” – that is
      how they see their monopoly – that is how they consider the
      suffering of fellow human beings ‘a major market opportunity’. We
      have been duped.

      In
      the US, US
      patent number 6,630,507 granted
      in 2003
      states unequivocally that cannabinoids are useful in the prevention
      and treatment of a wide variety of diseases including auto-immune
      disorders, stroke, trauma, Parkinson’s, Alzeheimer’s and HIV
      dementia. GWP continue to take out patents on each component of
      cannabis as they are found.

      GWP
      are cultivating over 30 tons of high quality cannabis per year with
      the government’s blessing whilst anyone else, doing exactly the same
      thing, gets a criminal record and up to 14 years inside. As a direct
      result organised crime cashes in to feed the demand to the tune of
      £6billion pa.

      As
      realisation of the vast array of medical benefits of cannabis grows
      - so does demand and, funny old thing, so does the spread of
      so-called cannabis factories, poor quality product, people
      trafficking, gang warfare, electricity theft and appalling
      persecution of otherwise law abiding citizens who try and avoid the
      criminal trade by growing their own. Also the enormous cost to us the
      taxpayer, which is having no effect whatsoever on the illegal
      cannabis trade, continues to rise exponentially.

      Proper
      control can only happen with legalisation and, when this happens, and
      people can grow their own in safety, the era of the illegal cannabis
      factories will end. It’s time for a new approach. CLEAR-UK.ORG to
      find out the truth.”

    • Anonymous

      Sorry about the formatting in my previous – disqus has gremlins.

    • Anonymous

      Over the last few days I’ve read a few articles on how Sativex is going to be used to relieve “cannabis withdrawl symptoms” in Australia. Anyone els think this is totally redundant?! If there were any withdrawl symptoms from cannabis (I belive there are none) you wouldn’t treat it with more cannabis even if it comes in a nice little bottle.

    • Anonymous

      Hmm
      this week i will find out if i can get sativex, armed with my letter from the home office advising i ask my doctor for sativex as well as a letter from my MP suggesting the same, and my hospital specialist advising i should be started on it, will my Doctor say yes and write the prescription or No?

      If he says no, im growing 4 plants for 6 months worth of my own green – fuck the police
       

    • Anonymous

      Would anyone like to wager a bet on my chances of getting Sativex, home office letter saying there sorry about my condition and i should ask the doc about sativex, letter from hospital specialist i was refereed to saying Sativex may help me, letter from MP saying i should talk to doctor about Sativex, the Class A legal drugs the doctor has given me, fuck me up no end. Im taking a shit load of opiates

    • http://www.facebook.com/mathias.sorrow Mathias Sorrow

      Just my opinion but, in what way is this company a government supported monopoly ? Are any other companies allowed to do the same thing over here ? Are there other companies trialling cannabis based medicines in the UK, and if so, do they have to buy their cannabis from GW ? Obviously the idiots ‘in charge’ can see that they are going to have to change the laws regarding cannabis in the VERY near future and so are looking for ways to line their own pockets the second it happens. What I find completely and absolutely unforgiveable is that people are suffering and dying for want of a medicine that could be grown in most anyone’s garden.

    • paul duncan

      does any one see a conflict of interest here regarding the law pertaining to the growth of cannabis, medical professionals seem to be dancing on a head of a pin at the moment in order to help people but yet LEGAL law would have them either fined or imprisoned or both yet they have acres of space, also the man power and technology helping them to make a product which isn’t any more beneficial than the original plant  . Now the common man as in you or me if we done this would have them down on us like a ton of bricks. the legal law pertaining to this is quite clear for most who understands it, lets say from my point of view the system needs an overhaul. I think its time for a change

      p.s how many of you know that Brittan fought for control of the opium trade in east asia  back in 1860′s there main foe then again was France

    • cshaws

      This is a bit out of date. Sativex is now schedule 4 I believe :(http://www.gwpharm.com/GW%20Pharmaceuticals%20cannabinoid-medicine%20Sativex%20moved%20to%20Schedule%204%20of%20UK%20Drugs%20Act.aspx

      Les Iverson seems to have done a bit of cunning wordsmithing in order for this to happen. The bizarre thing is that as a result of these convoluted polemics cannabis now has a somewhat multifaceted personality. It might not cause schizophrenia but it, sure as hell, is schizophrenic according to the MoDA.
      Raw cannabis is Class B Schedule 1 (no recognised medicinal application)
      GWP extract all the goodies from raw cannabis to make cannabis oil which is Class A Schedule 1
      They then dilute this Class A Schedule 1 product with alcohol (not controlled under the MoDA) which gives dilute Cannabis Oil (still Class A Schedule 1 I guess?)
      They then put it in a bottle and give it a cute name (Sativex) which somehow transforms the Class A Schedule 1 contents into a Class B Schedule 4 drug. That’s magic!
      So, according to the Home Office, Cannabis is now Class A, Class B, Schedule 1 and Schedule 4 all at the same time. Or am I missing something?

    • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

      Beautifully put Chris!

    • cshaws

      I have been digging and I stand corrected. Cannabis Oil is not Class A it is Class B. It was Class A but was quietly demoted to Class B when Cannabis was moved from C to B in 2009. (Hardly a mention of it – and hard to find)
      But in way that only deepens the mystery. It really begs the question “why would a government increase the classification of a ‘dangerous’ substance from C to B to limit it ‘harms’, while, at the same time, demoting a far more concentrated (more dangerous?) form from Class A to Class B??”
      I guess it would ease the future passage of this substance to marketable status if, say, a friend ever actually produced it and wanted to sell it commercially or run extensive trials into other profitable areas. But who would want to do that – I’ll let you guess?

    • hrg2

      I do not get the issue at all. This drug help people who need help the most without subjecting them to stupid and archaic laws. It is a move forward to making pot legal. Let GW make and sell the extract. It is all that some people can get right now legally. Look at this as a stepping stone. A way to push the use of the drug into the public and political eye as effective and less harmful than many other drugs.

    • JasonM

      I am a Sativex user. There is a couple of issues that I got with this med. First, each spray is only 2.5mg THC which is not much at all. The average dosage for regular weed would be at least 1 gram. That would mean you would need to take 1000 sprays to reach the effect of 1 gram of regular weed.

    • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

      Your calculations are incorrect Jason. The average joint contains about 0.3g cannabis. Average THC content is about 12%. Therefore, the average joint contains about 40mg THC but a large proportion is burned away.

      I would estimate that five to 10 sprays of Sativex are equivalent to the average joint.

    • JasonM

      I stand corrected Peter…thank you!

    • CBD – read about it

      Please do the research and learn about the science behind pharmacologic agents before you start bashing them. The endocannabinoid system is an integral part of your physiology whether you like it or not. Endocannabinoids are integrally involved in regulation of the immune system, prevention of autoimmunity, destruction of abnormal and neoplastic/cancer cells, and a whole host of other physiologic processes. Virtually every cell on your body has a CB1 or CB2 receptor on it, and it’s ludicrous to ignore the therapeutic potential of targeting this huge signaling system simply because one cannabinoid (THC) has the unfortunate side effect of binding CNS CB1 receptors and “making you high.” The high is the dose limiting side effect of cannabinoid based therapies and as a doctor I view it as such. GW pharm is honestly the only company handling the medicalization of cannabis in a responsible fashion. You see, when you increase the CBD content of a cannabinoid preparation, you decrease the psychoactive effects b/c CBD antagonizes CB1 receptors and decreases activity of THC at those receptors (also up regulates endogenous endocannabinoids). GWP is the only company doing this effectively, as they understand CBD is only bioavailable if you administer it sublingually or absorb it via oromucosal route (spray). Long story short, by limiting or knocking out THC’s psychoactive effects, GWP is the first co to actually try and harness the immunosuppressive, antineoplastic, anti-epileptic, and anti-inflammatory properties of THC and the endocannabinoids.

    • CBD – read about it

      If your kid ends up with Dravet syndrome (intractable seizures), then your only option for treatment is a CBD preparation created and available through GWP

      http://www.epilepsyresearch.org.uk/cannabis-derived-dravet-syndrome-drug-gets-us-orphan-drug-approval/

    • CBD – read about it

      If you get gliobastoma multiform from using your cell phone too much, Dr’s will put you on temozolamide….turns out that the chemo regiment TMZ + THC + CBD is more effective than TMZ alone as THC and CBD have synergistic anti-neoplastic activity and decrease tumor resistance to TMZ

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21220494

    • CBD – read about it

      If you develop scleroderma, then you will likely want to try the new experimental treatment that shows more promise in preclinical studies than any current agent being used for this debilitating disorder. (btw, it’s the synthetic analogue for the thc metabolite that we look for in Urine Drug Screens)

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22492781

    • CBD – read about it

      Caveats (to show you my view is balanced):

      -certain breast and other cancers that don’t have CB receptors actually may grow faster in the presence of thc (due to immunosuppression). So thc (but not neck cbd) should be avoided in these cancers.

      -dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system can occur in a very small population of chronic users and result in paradoxical vomiting syndromes, arteritis, etc

      -use before age 18 may lead to permanent cognitive effects including lower iq, etc

      -Its unquestionably a drug of abuse and can be a gateway to generalized addictive behavioral patterns…..WHICH IS WHY THE CBD IS SO IMPORTANT

    • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

      Mr ‘CBD’,

      Your multiple posting under a pseudonym with evangelical, uncritical praise for GWP does nothing to enhance your credibility.

      I think everyone with even a fairly sketchy understanding of the endocannabinoid system recognises the importance of CBD and that the corrupt, failed policy of prohibition is what has caused its elimination from street cannabis. It is the equivalent of moonshine liquor.

      I think most people also recognise the enormous expertise that GWP has developed and that, in their own right, its products (Sativex and Epidiolex) are valuable medicines.

      It’s when you depart into the nonsensical propaganda that GWP is the only source of such products, knowledge and expertise that you show your true colours.

      GWP’s business is based on a corrupt and dishonest regulatory regime and it is as much part of the conspiracy as is the UK Home Office. I don’t blame it for taking advantage of incompetent and dishonest government regulation but I do charge it with a share of responsibility for denying access to the raw, herbal form of cannabis which is so beneficial to so many people.

      GWP must not be allowed to maintain its unlawful stranglehold on the medicinal cannabis market. While its expertise and products are good qualities, its participation in and manipulation of the corrupt, dishonest prohibition regime cancels out what good it does.

      If anyone in GWP has the intelligence and moral courage to look ahead, it should start making the truth about cannabis clear and stop deceiving and misinforming people for short term commercial gain.

    • linda

      I have MS and want to try Sativex. Does anyone know if Colorado sells it anywhere?

    • Bob

      You can get a hash oil spray like Sativex at many Colorado cannabis dispensaries for $20. No doctor needed since it is now legal for recreational use since 1-1-2014.