By / March 2, 2020

Therapeutic cannabis in the Philippines towards legalization

The approval of medical cannabis use might look like a small step, but it’s actually extremely important. Supporters of cannabis legalization for medical purposes in the Philippines achieved a virtual victory when the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) recently approved “in principle” a resolution to allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) to relieve severe forms of epilepsy.

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The DDB is the government’s decision-making and strategy development body for the prevention and control of drug abuse. Among the hundreds of components of cannabis, CBD, a painkiller, is one of the two most active, the other is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which produces psychoactive effects.

CBD is backed by science

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) recently approved “in principle” a resolution to allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) to relieve severe forms of epilepsy. (Source)

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) states: “In humans, CBD does not show effects indicative of any potential for abuse or dependence. To date, there is no evidence of public health problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” There has been scientific evidence that CBD – derived from the hemp plant, a “cousin” of cannabis – relieves seizures in people with epilepsy.

One of the most recent studies was undertaken by Dr. Orrin Devinsky, Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine and Director of the Langone Global Epilepsy Center. “This new study adds rigorous evidence of the effectiveness of cannabidiol in reducing the convulsive burden in a severe form of epilepsy and, above all, it is the first study of its kind to offer more information on the correct dosage,” said Devinsky, whose results were published online on May, 17th 2018 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Undersecretary Benjie Reyes, a permanent member of the DDB, told the researcher that the WHO recommended to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) – the counterpart of the DDB in the United Nations – to allow the reclassification of CBD-based products with 0.2% THC in the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances as in Table 4, or substance with medical use currently accepted in treatment, with a low potential for abuse.

CBD approval in the United States

The Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Drugs. In a rapid turn of events, in 2018, the US Drug Enforcement Agency approved the legal use of CBD-derived medicines with 0.1% THC. In the same year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the legal use of Epidiolex, an oral solution of CBD produced by GW Pharmaceuticals, for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome – in patients aged 2 years and older.

That is the first drug approved by the FDA that contains a purified substance derived from cannabis. It is also the first FDA approval of a drug for the treatment of patients with Dravet’s syndrome. “This approval serves as a reminder that the advancement of programs that correctly evaluate the active ingredients contained in cannabis can lead to important medical therapies. The FDA is committed to this kind of careful scientific research and drug development,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who is a physician.

Who can benefit from medical cannabis legalization

The approval of medical cannabis use might look like a small step, but it’s extremely important. (Source)

According to estimates, Dr. Donnabel Cunanan, dentist and founding member and spokesperson of the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society (PCCS), the House Bill’s chief legal counsel, reported that in 2014 there were about 250,000 children in the Philippines with epileptic disorder No. 279.

If this bill will be passed, the country will legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis believed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses in the treatment of chronic or debilitating medical conditions.

Medical Cannabis Administration Centres (MCCCs) will also be established, authorized to sell, supply and distribute medical cannabis to qualified patients or their caregivers through authorized pharmacists.

There’s no need for a list

“Actually, our position is that there is no need for an ad hoc list,” said Reyes of DDB. “It can speed up the process if the legislator approves this list. We don’t have to wait for CND’s decision, because our local laws will take precedence.”

“Even without the law, as long as it’s in a medical form, CBD can be registered,” he said. “Just like opiates, morphine, and those are dangerous drugs, but in the form of medicine, they can be used. Cocaine is used for anesthesia.”

The DDB held public hearings with PCCS, specifically on the following points:

1) The reclassification of drugs containing CBD with no more than 0.1% THC from Annex 1 (no medical use currently accepted in treatment in the Philippines) and Annex 2 (currently accepted medical use) to Program 4 (currently accepted medical use in the Philippines and has a low potential for abuse);

2) Creation of guidelines for the resolution of the DDB Schedule entitled “Requirements for issuing a license to acquire, possess and use unregistered pharmaceutical products containing dangerous drugs for personal use.”


(Featured image by Cris Tagupa via Unsplash)

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