On Thursday, France approved the first cannabis-based medicine to be prescribed in that country. The marijuana derivative drug will be sold in the form of a mouth spray and will be available to sufferers of multiple sclerosis.
The announcement by the Ministry of Health in France on Thursday that the drug Sativex is approved, brings the country in line with 17 other countries in Europe where the product is already being prescribed.
In a world where marijuana is gaining more acceptance these days, this move is still a big one for France. Medicines based on cannabis were banned from the French market for many years. In June 2013, however, the Health Minister, Marisol Touraine did pass a decree opening the door to the medicines like Sativex possibly being approved in the country.
In a statement by the French Ministry of Health, the announcement is the first step in marketing the product, which will be initiated by the laboratory. Reportedly the medicine is set to be available in France in 2015.
According to the Ministry of Health, however, prescriptions for Sativex will be kept under a strict control. The drug will only be prescribed for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, a highly debilitating condition affecting the sufferer’s nervous system.
The hopes are that Sativex will successfully soothe the severe muscle spasms suffered by multiple sclerosis patients, who are not responding to other treatments.
Sativex will only be prescribed by certain doctors, however, including neurologists. Due to the fact that it is a narcotics-based drug, patients will only receive a month’s supply each time and will need to get a new prescription from their doctor every six months. The medicine will be available at local pharmacies, but will be kept securely in a safe, under the same storage regulations as opiate-based medicines.
Sativex has been available for some time in several other European countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The fact that it will now be available in France was applauded by a Sativex distributor.
Christope Vandeputte, head of Almirall Laboratories, told the French media:
“It’s good news for French patients who are nearly the last in Europe to have access to Sativex.”
“The approval to sell Sativex in France represents the successful end of three years of talks. It was a delicate case in an explosive environment.”
While French law continues to remain firm against the use of medical and recreational marijuana, it seems that the country already allows Marinol, which is a synthetic version of marijuana’s key ingredient. However this is only under limited and tightly controlled circumstances.
Cannabis supporters in France continue to challenge the laws and are trying to get public backing for the smoking of marijuana in registered social clubs, so far with no success.
The laws are harsh against those cultivating the drug and anyone caught growing cannabis is likely to face 30 years in jail and a huge 7.5 million euro ($10.1 million) fine.
However, the news that France has approved the first cannabis-based medicine in the country is a step forward not only for supporters, but also for sufferers from multiple sclerosis.
By Anne Sewell
Wall Street Journal