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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Medical cannabis hits high notes for pain mgmt, rare diseases | India News – Times of India

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MUMBAI: Three-year-old Sia (name changed) was nine months old when she was diagnosed with Van der Knapp syndrome, a rare disorder in which the brain’s white matter progressively starts vanishing. She couldn’t ‘hold’ her neck in position, turn or crawl like other toddlers, and neurologists whom her techie parents consulted said there was no medicine or treatment they could offer their daughter.
At that time, the family doctor gave an unconventional advice: Try medical cannabis oil for Sia. “We followed her advice, and Sia has in the last two years developed a range of movements that our neurologist was surprised at,” said her 32-year-old mother Maya.
For Shruti Shridhar, the doctor who gave Maya the advice, Sia was the first patient for whom she had prescribed medical cannabis. “When Sia’s condition was diagnosed in October 2020, I started researching Van der Knapp syndrome to understand the physiology. I found a research article that mentioned CBD oil could cause neuroprotection and neurogenesis in forming of new neurons,” she told TOI.

The research paper wasn’t new, but there is such low acceptance or understanding about medical cannabis that no doctor seemed to have heard of its ability to help children like Sia. For a country where bhang, a product made from cannabis leaves, has been in use for centuries, knowledge about cannabis’s medical uses is extremely low. To change this, Pune-based Shridhar and other members of Academy of Cannabinoids India last week spoke about the ‘Why, how and what of medical cannabis’ to an audience comprising doctors and interested citizens in central Mumbai.


For cannabis practitioners, the problem begins right with the nomenclature: People think cannabis is the same as marijuana, which is associated with “highs” and hallucinogenic effects. Cannabis is the name of the entire plant whose various parts contain about 540 chemicals. Cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, is an active ingredient in cannabis and most commonly used as medical cannabis, said doctors.
In the two years that she has started her cannabis clinic, Shridhar has over 200 patients, most with chronic pain related to either cancer or neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Her mentor, Palakkad-based allopath Sayed Tahir Hassan has treated over 5,000 patients since he started with medical cannabis care in 2017.
“I have trained 45 doctors across the country since then and I now mainly help cancer patients with pain management,’’ he said. The biggest change vis-à-vis medical cannabis in the past five years, according to Hassan, is that cancer patients come to him right at the start. “Previously, I would only get patients in the last stages, but now I get patients in stage two,”’ he said.
Two years back, United Nations reclassified cannabis from Schedule IV where it was listed alongside heroin to encourage scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties.
“It is estimated that medical cannabis industry will grow from $2 billion in 2018 to $146 billion by 2025. India, which has the ability to grow cannabis, should act now,”’ said Hasan, adding that cannabidiol oilisn’t without its side-effects. At the moment, five states, including Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha, allow growing and manufacture of CBD.
Mumbaikar Sukrit Goel, who owns Cannazo India, produces medicinal cannabis in a unit in Indore.
“I used to contract-manufacture for other companies, but realised there is a great potential in medical cannabis. And decided to start my own company,” said Goel, whose family used to import Cannabidiol oil after he suffered a stroke at 19.
“Cannabidiol oil and physiotherapy help me gain movement,” said the 26-year-old.
Allopaths, too, acknowledge it works for pain. “We cannot prescribe it, but patients come to us saying that using Cannabidiol oil has helped reduce their pain,” said pain management specialist Preeti Doshi.

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