On March 29th, 2017, the Argentine Congress passed the first statute allowing medical and scientific research on the medical use of the cannabis plant and its derivatives, but it was not until early August this year that medical cannabis was first administered to 14 patients suffering from epilepsy and seizures caused by different syndromes at Garrahan Children’s Hospital. This decision could take place thanks to new implementing regulations of Law No. 27350 governing the use of medical cannabis.
The Argentine Medical Cannabis Act
The introduction of these regulations was requested by social and scientific organisations claiming that this 2017 statute faced several limitations concerning access to this plant. Among other updates, these new regulations authorised cannabis home growing for medical purposes, extended permitted uses beyond refractory epilepsy, and laid the foundations for a bill—currently being debated—by promoting public cannabis production in all its varieties and its possible industrialisation for medical, therapeutic and research use.
In this way, this bill sets forth a regulatory framework for the chain of production, industrialisation and sale of the cannabis plant, its seeds, and byproducts for industrial and medical use, and was given preliminary approval by the Senate, now awaiting the final decision by the House of Representatives.
Cannabis for Neuropathic Pain
In this context, researchers from the Research Institute of Translational Medicine (IIMT, by its Spanish acronym)—reporting to Universidad Austral and CONICET—signed an agreement with state-owned company Cannava, based in the Province of Jujuy, to run pre-clinical trials on the use of cannabis to treat neuropathic pain related to cancer.
“This is the first attempt to treat chronic pain using cannabis oil produced in Argentina,” states PhD in Biomedical Sciences María Florencia Coronel, a CONICET researcher working at the IIMT and also director of this project. “Our society holds great expectations for the use of cannabis to treat different pathologies, but science still needs more evidence. This is why we have decided to undertake this research: because we believe that cannabinoids, acting on the endocannabinoid system, plays a key role in diminishing pain signals in our bodies; they show a great potential,” explains Coronel.
Although it took some time for regulations to be introduced, many patients had already been using cannabis-derived products in the country. There is a wide fan of brands and administration forms, and—although most products are imported from Europe and North America—some Latin American countries are starting to penetrate the cannabis market.