Pharmaceutical company receives patent approval to treat cancer with cannabis
On the 11th of December 2013, GW Pharmaceuticals announced that it had been given notice of approval by the U.S. Patent office for the use and creation of drugs containing THC and CBD for the treatment of certain cancers.
This is both good and very bad news. It is good because it shows that cannabis really can be used for the treatment of cancer, suggesting that the pharmaceutical company is confident in its ability if they are willing to patent it. This puts a stamp of legitimacy on cannabis as a cancer treatment. The bad news is that this could be shaping up as a serious problem for the access to wholesome medical cannabis, as a standardised medical product is available. Also, and that is even more obvious - no one should be able to patent a medicinal plant that has been in use for thousands of years.
The patent was actually applied for quite some time ago in 2009, but has likely been revised since to make it more specific in what it treats and what it is made of. The patent office will not approve a patent until they deem it to be a genuine “invention”.
A description of what is being patented is as follows:
“The subject patent specifically covers a method for treating glioma in a human using a combination of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) wherein the cannabinoids are in a ratio of from 1:1 to 1:20 (THC:CBD) with the intent to reduce cell viability, inhibit cell growth or reduce tumour volume.”
Using cannabinoids to treat cancer is not something new. Initial scientific research, as well as many anecdotal reports have outlined the ability of THC and CBD to slow down, halt and reverse tumour growth. However, it is worth noting that the first actual human trial into the matter only started in November, conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals.
This trial aims to test the effectiveness of Sativex, GW’s synthetic cannabinoid treatment, in conjunction with chemotherapy to treat a rare but aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme. They also announced in November that they were investigating the use of CBD for the treatment of paediatric epilepsy.
At the moment the patent has not been granted, but this exact scenario has been feared for decades. It is impossible to foresee how this will be playing out, but worries that cannabis will become a patented market are justified. While the recreational market is a different entity, it is safe to say that we should prepare to see many more patent applications in the medical market.