By Emily Ledger
The cannabis research program at the University of Mississippi‘s (UM) School of Pharmacy and pharmaceutical company, Emerald Bioscience Inc., aims to license two new Cannabis drugs. The products are synthetic drug candidate formulations, derived from Cannabis.
The two formulations are designed to provide pain management and to prevent blindness and vision loss associated with glaucoma and other eye conditions. The drugs use a synthetic prodrug of THC and a synthetic analogue of CBD.
Cannabis Drugs for Pain Relief
The pain-relieving CBD analogue was developed by UM in partnership with Oxford-based drug development company, ElSohly Laboratories Inc. (ELI). The drug was designed to be as effective, or more effective as a painkiller as opioids. It will also be non-addictive, unlike many opioids, which have a high risk of dependence.
This form of CBD has been found to provide pain relief, comparable to opioids, in a validated animal study. The study assessed the effect of the drug for relieving chemotherapy-induced neuropathy (CIN) in the animal model of the condition.
Current opioid pain relievers may have a low tolerance threshold for patients suffering from CIN. Often, patients will have to cease treatment, before being assured that they are tumour-free.
Ken Sufa, Ole Miss professor of psychology, pharmacology, and philosophy, stated:
“Our team believes this novel CBD compound can fully manage neuropathic pain and change the quality of life for thouse coping with cancer treatment.”
Cannabis Drugs for Eye Diseases
In addition, the two companies are hoping to license a second drug candidate. The synthetic THC prodrug has been developed in the form of an eyedrop to treat glaucoma. Consequently, the THC prodrug is an inactive form of THC which only becomes active once it has been absorbed into the body. The drug was developed through a collaboration by Emerald Bioscience, Ole Miss, and ELI.
Furthermore, the development of the final THC prodrug was ten years in the making. According to Soumyajit Majumdar, professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery and leader of the THC prodrug research team, “the Ole Miss and ELI research teams developed many iterations of the THC prodrug”.
“[we balanced] the characteristics of the compounds to come up with a molecule and an ophthalmic formulation that has the optimal characteristics to treat glaucoma effectively.”
Before the drugs become widely available, they will have to prove their efficacy through clinical trials. Even then, the availability of the products will depend on a number of regulatory and economic factors.
However, current tests have revealed that the Cannabis drugs can successfully enter the eye, and reach the retina. This qualification is very important in drugs aimed at preventing blindness.
CEO of Emerald Bioscience, Brian Murphy, expresses the potential of these drugs to be the “most promising cannabinoid-based therapies anywhere in the world.”
Murphy adds: “We will be able to use these derivatives of natural cannabinoids to further develop our programme based on the precept of precision medicine: drugs that can be delivered to a target tissue in the correct dose, in a formulation that best balances safety and efficacy.”
The University of Mississippi Pharmacy dean, David D. Allen, also stated:
“The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is incredibly proud to be home to the inventors and scientists who have been working on these emerging technologies in collaboration with ELI for years.”