FDA Approves First-Ever Synthetic THC Oil
3 min

FDA Approves First-Ever Synthetic THC Oil

3 min
Legislation News
The US approved the first-ever synthetic THC oil as a treatment for serious health conditions such as AIDS and cancer. Yet, it is still listing cannabis as a Schedule I drug that “has no medicinal value and a high risk for abuse”, despite evidence to the contrary.

Contradicting the United States’ official stance on that cannabis doesn’t provide any real medicinal benefit, federal health agencies in the US have approved synthetic versions of cannabis’ psychoactive components for the treatment of various health conditions in recent years.

One cannot help but see the irony in the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the organization that poses one of the obstacles on the way to cannabis legalisation, has just approved a liquid variety of synthetic THC that will be available as a treatment for AIDS and cancer patients.

Phoenix, Arizona based Insys Therapeutics is among the companies that is now wanting to get a foothold in the multi-million dollar medical marijuana market with its FDA-approved form of Dronabinol which is a liquid THC synthetic. The drug that will be sold under the name Syndros has been approved for the treatment of “anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional antiemetic treatments”.

It is to be expected that Syndros will be classified as a Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act, indicating accepted medical use and low to moderate potential for abuse. In contrast to this, cannabis is still considered a Schedule I drug which means that it is federally illegal just like heroin. According to the FDA, synthetic THC drugs like Syndros might offer a narrow, more precise way for treatment than their natural, herbal counterpart.


As for Dronabinol itself, this is the generic name for Marinol, which is a synthetic cannabinoid pill that is on the market for more than three decades already. Marinol is listed as a Schedule III but it never got very popular due to its potentially dysphoric side effects and delayed action.

This latest variant of Dronabinol, although anything but new when it comes to synthetic THC variants, is now offered as an “easy-to-swallow” liquid that is supposed to help with quicker absorption than its previous pill counterpart.

Insys has already indicated that they plan to convert the majority of their Dronabinol business over to Syndros. The company is meeting with nearly 8,000 physicians to discuss the benefits of their updated product.

While the synthetic drug obviously has the advantage that it is being sold in conjunction with state medical marijuana programs together with a Schedule III classification under the Controlled Substances Act (suggesting both medicinal value and a low risk for abuse), this sort of underlines the hypocrisy that cannabis itself is still ranked as a Schedule I drug “having no medical value and a high risk for abuse”.


What’s more, there is evidence that plant-based medications are superior to their “Big Pharmacy” counterparts due to how natural cannabinoids and terpenes work together synergistically in what’s called the “Entourage Effect”. When only one chemical is extracted from the plant (in the case of Dronabinol where THC is the only cannabinoid present) the medicinal effect is weaker. Lab manufactured drugs such as Syndros are missing the hundreds of other compounds that work together to provide a desired result in the natural plant counterparts.

This is also the reason that many patients who have been prescribed Dronabinol in the past have deemed the drug nowhere near as effective as cannabis.

In an interview with CNN in 2014, medicinal cannabis researcher Dr. Sanjay Gupta didn’t spare his criticism of Marinol. He was quoted saying “When the drug became available in the mid-1980s, scientists thought it would have the same effect as the whole cannabis plant. But it soon became clear that most patients preferred using the whole plant to taking Marinol. Researchers began to realize that other components, such as CBD, might have a larger role than previously realized”.

One cannot help but wonder how companies like Insys can successfully introduce and market their products despite those and similar findings. The answer is that they are speaking the US government’s language. What is happening is that in order to bring “safe and effective” drugs on the market, cannabis is “dissected” and an artificial difference between its “beneficial” and “evil” components created – a myth that is still upheld by DEA officials. As a result, drug controllers can keep a tight leash on the product with the black market kept open, allowing the continued criminal prosecutions and steep taxes on legal marijuana businesses.


  Guest Writer  

Written by: Guest Writer
Occasionally we have guest writers contribute to our blog here at Zamnesia. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, making their knowledge invaluable.

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