Fri, 6 Jul 2001 Source: Copyright: Investis Limited Contact:


Gw's Medicines Targeted At Ms, Cancer And Neuropathic Pain - Bmj Paper Findings Limited To Post-Operative Pain

GW Pharmaceuticals plc ( "GW" or "the Company" ) has noted today's media coverage relating to the findings of a paper by Fiona A Campbell et al* published in the issue of the British Medical Journal ( "BMJ" ) dated 7 July 2001, which reviews historical data from research on cannabinoids conducted between 1975 and 1997 ( "the Paper" ).

GW is pleased to note that the Paper's findings support the Company's principal research proposition - that there is scientific evidence to suggest that cannabis based medicines are effective in treating neuropathic pain and spasticity, two of the principal symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In clinical trials carried out by GW to date on patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and a range of intractable neurological conditions it is clear they are obtaining significant benefit.

GW agrees with the principal finding of the Paper, that single dose THC should not be used in post-operative pain and is only as effective in treating this form of pain as codeine. GW's lead products comprise whole plant extracts of cannabis incorporated in a sub lingual ( under the tongue ) spray and are quite distinct from the oral single THC products referred to in the Paper. Further, GW's research programme has never focused on post-operative pain as a target market and the Company's business plan does not include it as a source of potential revenue.

Speaking on LBC Radio this morning the Paper's author, Dr Fiona Campbell, emphasised the difference between acute post operative pain and chronic intractable neuropathic pain. In addition, Dr Campbell clearly stated that cannabinoids may well have an important role to play in neuropathic pain.

Professor Roger Pertwee, Professor of Neuropharmacology at Aberdeen University, leads a large cannabinoid research group funded by the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust. Professor Pertwee is a contributing author of the 1997 BMA report on cannabis and former President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. Commenting on the Paper, Professor Pertwee said: "The data reviewed in the BMJ paper are the same as those we reviewed in the BMA report on cannabis published in 1997. This report recommended that the prescription of cannabinoid medicines should be permitted for patients with intractable pain. The animal data reviewed in the BMJ paper strongly support a role for cannabinoids in the management of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. These animal data are backed up by strong anecdotal data in multiple sclerosis spasticity and pain."

Commenting on the Paper, Dr Philip Robson, GW's Medical Director, said: "The BMJ paper re-reviews historical data ( 1975-97 ) which was considered, alongside a wealth of additional scientific data, by GW when the Company initiated its research programme in 1998. GW agrees with the authors of the paper that post-operative pain is not the area in which cannabinoids are likely to provide superior therapeutic benefit over existing treatments. For this reason, GW is not focusing its research on post-operative pain. However, the paper also recognises that cannabis could be useful in other areas of pain, in particular neuropathic pain and spasticity, and it is these areas in which GW is focusing its current research.

"In the last 18 months, GW has carried out clinical trials in 75 patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, neuropathic pain, other intractable neurological conditions and rheumatoid arthritis. Patients in these trials are clearly gaining benefit. We are seeing clinically significant improvements in a range of symptoms, including pain, muscle spasms, spasticity, bladder related symptoms, tremor and overall improvements in quality of life. In some cases the improvement has been sufficient to transform lives. These improvements are particularly notable in that they have occurred in a group of patients whose symptoms have been considered intractable in the face of all available standard therapy."

* "Are cannabinoids an effective and safe treatment option in the management of pain? A qualitative systematic review" by Fiona A Campbell, Martin R Tramer, Dawn Carroll, D John M Reynolds, R Andrew Moore, Henry J McQuay.