DDB clarifies: CBD is not cannabis per se
It's a small step, but it's practically a foot in the door. Supporters of the legalization of cannabis as a drug won a virtual victory when the Dangerous Drugs Council (DDB) recently approved a resolution authorizing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) to relieve severe forms of epilepsy. The Dangerous Drugs Board in the Philippines would like to point out that the use of marijuana remains illegal in the country for recreational and medical purposes. However, the use of cannabidiol is considered authorized for the treatment of certain rare forms of epilepsy such as Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome.
The DDB is the government body responsible for developing drug prevention and control policies and strategies.
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), "In humans, CBD has no effect indicating the potential for abuse or dependence. To date, there is no evidence of public health issues related to the use of CBD. "
Undersecretary Benjamin Reyes, permanent member of the DDB, said that WHO had recommended to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the DDB's counterpart to the United Nations, to allow CBD containing 0,2% of THC to be reclassified in the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances as Annex 4, or a substance whose medical use in treatment is currently accepted and which has a low potential for abuse .
The Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Drugs.
A quick tour of events in 2018, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency approved the legal use of CBD with 0,1% THC. In the same year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the legal use of Epidiolex, an oral CBD solution manufactured 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 2 years of age and older.
Who can benefit ?
It is estimated that in 2014, 250000 children in the Philippines suffered from seizures, according to Dr. Donnabel Cunanan, dentist, founding member and spokesperson for the Philippines Cannabis Compassion Society (PCCS), main defender of Bill 279.
If this bill becomes law, it will legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis which has been found to have beneficial and therapeutic uses in the treatment of chronic or debilitating diseases.
It will also establish medical cannabis dispensaries (MCCC), which will be authorized to sell and supply medical cannabis to qualified patients or their caregivers through licensed pharmacists.
No invoice needed
"In fact, our position is that there is no need for a bill," said Mr. Reyes of the DDB. “We can speed up the process, if the legislature passes the bill. We do not need to wait for the CND's decision because our local laws will take precedence ”.
"But even without the law, as long as it is in drug form, it can be registered," he said. “Like opiates and morphine, they are dangerous drugs, but in the form of medication, they can be used. Cocaine is used for anesthesia. ”
He said that the DDB has conducted public hearings with the PCCS, in particular on the following points:
- Reclassification of CBD-containing drugs with no more than 0,1% THC from Schedule 1 (no medical use currently accepted for treatment in the Philippines) and Schedule 2 (currently accepted medical use ) in Schedule 4 (currently accepts medical use in the Philippines and has low potential for abuse);
- Creation of guidelines for the resolution of the DDB board of directors entitled "Requirements for the issue of a license for the acquisition, possession and use of unregistered pharmaceutical products containing dangerous drugs for personal use".
"We adopted it in principle last December," said Reyes.
The downside, for now, is that theEpidiolex costs $ 32 per patient, which is enough for one year of use.
Senator Bong Go, chairman of the Senate Health and Sports Committee, is working on an amendment to the budget allocation for this drug, said Reyes.
The plan, Reyes said, is to allow the University of the Philippines College of Medicine to import the Epidiolex, to create a registry for patients who really need it, to get the medicine for free.
"It will take some time because we need a budget allocation from the Senate," said Mr. Reyes.
However, this is a welcome development for cannabis patients, their families, and supporters of the reclassification of cannabis to Schedule 4. He recognizes that cannabis is a drug, and that it has very low potential for abuse "
A step in the right direction
"In addition, DDB's efforts, after discussions at Malacañang (official residence of the President of the Philippines), to create a mechanism for patients to access cannabis is another welcome development. It departs from the intensely prohibitive position of government agencies with regard to this plant which has the potential to heal and help so many people, "said the PCCS. "We hope this step in the right direction will pave the way for affordable, safe and available medical cannabis for all patients."
Reyes believes that cannabis "really has a medical use".
"But we have to be careful when we talk about medicine, because it has two sides: good effects and side effects. The benefits must outweigh the negative effects. But I'm sure that eventually, with technology, we will be able to remove impurities, ”he said.
If the bill is approved as law, more than 200000 children with seizures will have the opportunity to live a life without or with fewer seizures.