Made-in-India cannabis based drugs are going to be available soon enough. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR) is in advanced stages of clinical trials to launch two breakthrough drugs.
Three major science administrators in India — The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Indian Council for Medical Research and the Department of Biotechnology — are getting together to promote research in herbal drugs. Some of these studies involve deriving new drugs from marijuana.
One of such studies is a joint investigation by the CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM) and the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), Mumbai. Here researchers will test whether strains of cannabis grown at the CSIR-IIIM campus in Jammu could be effective in the treatment of breast cancer, sickle-cell anaemia as well as be “bioequivalent” to cannabis-derived drugs already approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
“There is an unmet need for terminal cancer patients and because of restrictions we have lost 50-60 years of valuable research into the properties of these plants,” said Ram Vishwakarma, Director, CSIR-IIIM.
Another study for an epilepsy drug will be conducted in New Delhi’s AIIMS. Ratan Tata-backed cannabis research start-up, Bombay Hemp Company (Boheco), is CSIR’s funding partner for the two research projects.
The two medicines are based on cannabidiol(CBD), one of the two primary compounds that occurs naturally in cannabis. CBD is not psychoactive, i.e. it won’t get the user high. Similar cannabis-derived drugs have already been approved in Europe and US. However, to get these in India one has to get special permissions from doctors. And even if you do manage to secure the necessary permits, you have to pay a hefty price for them. Once we start manufacturing the drugs in India, the prices will drop significantly.