Right now, the only FDA approved marijuana derived drug is Marinol, by prescription for AIDS or chemotherapy patients. But some patients have reported feeling "high" on that medication. So, for years, scientists have been trying to create a marijuana spin-off that would have the pain relieving properties of marijuana, but without the high that makes it illegal.
Now, a national meeting of the American Chemical Society has revealed a possible solution. It's a synthetic compound called Ajulemic Acid. In animal studies, it was 10 to 50 times more potent than the main ingredient in marijuana, but it has none of the mood altering side effects. And it appears to help prevent joint damage in arthritis without the stomach upset side effects of aspirin or ibuprofen.
Researchers say that if studies pan out, this marijuana spin-off, using Ajulemic Acid, could be available by prescription in two years. Researchers still don't completely understand how the compound works, but they believe it helps suppress chemicals that cause inflammation.
Along with easing pain, tests of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in rats have shown that the drug relieves muscle stiffness similar to the effect of natural marijuana. Human studies of the drug's effect on MS are planned. Other evidence suggests that the compound could slow the spread of cancer cells and prolong survival in mice with brain tumors. The U.S. Army is evaluating it as a topical drug to relieve the blistering effects of sulfur mustard gas. The research is being conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.