Cannabis: From Pariah to Prescription by Ethan Russo, ed. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press; 2004. 187 pp. hardcover, ISBN# 0-7890-2398-0, $39.95. soft cover, ISBN# 0-7890-2399-5, $19.95.
Cannabis: From Pariah to Prescription is a rare and important account of the acute and relatively long-term effects of cannabinoids on healthy humans in a clinical setting. The stunning cover design and scholarly content are sure to draw considerable attention to the ongoing development of Cannabis-based therapeutics. Only the severely cannabiphobic will succeed in resisting the temptation to pick up this book. In addition to insightful commentaries by Editor Ethan Russo, M.D., and an index, the real matter of this volume is contained within three academic manuscripts that describe three clinical trials of standardized Cannabis-based medicine extracts. These three articles describe the tedious, yet eventual success of GW Pharmaceuticals to develop an efficacious delivery system for the therapeutic oral administration of plant-extracted cannabinoids. The studied formulations were generally well tolerated and therapeutically relevant for many indications including spasticity in multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, lower urinary tract symptoms, and sleep disturbances associated with neurological diseases.
The title sums up the short and rapidly progressing history of Cannabis therapeutics in modern medicine. The natural cannabinoids and some synthetic derivatives are now moving into the Western pharmacopeia, following the demonstrated market potential of synthetic THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) from the U.S., Marinol® (dronabinol; Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Marietta, GA). From an economic point of view, Cannabis extracts will always be less costly to produce than either synthetic alternative. Mild euphoria aside, the cannabinoids generally have fewer adverse side effects than most conventional medications, and the therapeutic potential is both deep and broad.
It will be interesting to see how (and no longer if) cannabis-based medications develop in the coming years. Look for them soon in a pharmacy near you!
—J.C. Callaway, PhD Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry University of Kuopio, Finland