Multiple Sclerosis Patients May Someday Find Relief In Marijuana Chewing Gum

Patients can smoke it, eat it and soon, they may be able to chew it.

Cannabis-focused biotech company AXIM Biotechnologies AXIM, +127.27% last week said it launched clinical trials on humans for medical cannabis chewing gum as a treatment for multiple sclerosis. The gum, MedChew RX, contains 5 milligrams of cannabidiol — a non-psychoactive component of cannabis — and 5 milligrams of THC — a psychoactive cannabinoid.

Marijuana-infused gum enters clinical trialsmw-ds172_mariju_20150813144941_mg

Medical marijuana chewing gum “should allow for predictable and controlled release of the active ingredients,” George Anastassov, chief executive of AXIM, said in a statement. It should not be socially stigmatizing, should have a pleasant taste and consistency and no undesirable side effects, he added. “Chewing gum meets all these criteria.”

AXIM already has a cannabinoid chewing gum product, known as CanChew, on the market, however it does not contain THC and does not offer any medical claims.

The psychoactive component of THC is an effective way to treat patients with degenerative diseases, in addition to the medicinal properties of cannabidiol, which can be used to treat neurological conditions such as epilepsy. Additionally, the act of chewing helps preserve cognition and memory, as well as promotes overall oral health, Anastassov told MarketWatch.

While the current trials of the gum are only for MS patients, Anastassov says Axim hopes to expand the range of conditions it can be prescribed for.

“For multiple sclerosis, the market for treatment is quite large,” Anastassov says. “Eventually, we will try to enlarge the conditions for this medication, such as pain.” (More than 2.3 million people are affected by MS globally, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.)

He says pain is one of the most predominant symptoms patients of a wide variety of diseases including MS suffer from globally, and there have been few game-changing drugs in the pharmaceutical market to help treat it.

There is no cure for MS, but current treatments work to speed recovery from attacks, slow the disease’s progression and manage symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. The most common treatments used to manage symptoms are physical therapy, muscle relaxants and medications to reduce fatigue, depression and pain.

The Phase 1 trial of the gum is slated to begin in the second quarter of 2016. Though medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, it is classified on the federal level as a schedule I drug, which gives it the same illegal status as heroin and LSD and is considered to have no accepted medical use.

While the FDA has yet to approve any product containing cannabis, it has approved Marinol — which contains dronabinol, a synthesized form of THC — for anorexia, chemotherapy and AIDS patients. The FDA’s website says it will continue to assess the effectiveness of marijuana for medical use, and will work with companies on medical cannabis research.

If the gum is approved by the FDA, it could be available in all 50 states, even if they have not legalized medical marijuana. “That’s why we’re going through the FDA,” Anastassov says. “There’s no ambiguity as to where it’s legal.”

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