A major US study into marijuana’s use for migraine relief came one step closer to being performed in early October, when it received FDA approval to proceed.
Montana University neurologist Dr Ethan Russo has been trying to get FDA approval for this study for three years. The FDA rejected his study proposal without review in 1997 and 1998, because he did not have a legal pot supply. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has sole control over the feds’ stash, and used to automatically refuse herb to studies that weren’t funded by the National Institute of Health.
Now NIDA has changed their policy, and will sell pot to any researcher that gets FDA approval, as long as they also pass a special new Public Health Service review.
In a press release, Dr Russo complains about the unnecessary bureaucracy. “NIDA has added a new hoop through which cannabis researchers must jump? Their review panel has not been selected or seated, and there are no guarantees that members will have any expertise in migraine treatment.”
Over 400 million people suffer from migraines worldwide. 60% have at least one debilitating headache per month, many being struck over four times monthly.
The usual pharmaceutical treatment for migraine is sumatriptan, sold under the brand name Imitrex. Yet it is ineffective in about 30% of patients, and produces negative side-effects in many others.
Marijuana has been recommended for migraine since the 6th century, including numerous references in the medical literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The double-blind study would use 40 patients with severe migraine. Patients would be randomly placed in one of four categories, receiving either a THC pill, a placebo pill, real marijuana to smoke, or “placebo marijuana” ? pot treated with acetone to remove the THC.
The buds are grown for NIDA at the University of Mississippi, and are of notoriously poor quality. “NIDA has not even set the price of their own marijuana,” notes Dr Russo, “which is very low grade compared to the material provided by the cannabis clubs in California.”
This is only the second clinical med-pot study approved by the DEA in 15 years. Dr Donald Abrams of the University of California is currently studying whether marijuana produces immunosupressive effects when used by HIV patients in combination with protease-inhibitors.
Dr Russo’s study was supported by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which gave him a $3500 grant. The study will cost $145,000 to complete.