Simply Cannabis: A Social Effort on Cannabinoid Studies

The field of medicine, like any other industry, is largely affected by the dominance of a few multinational pharmaceutical conglomerates. Research on any cure has to have a sufficient numbers of patients affected to make a profit, which is bad news for those afflicted with rare diseases.

However, after the emergence of social media, transformations in how we receive information began to be seen in every field and the health industry was no exception. One Berlin based non-profit is a good example of this transformation. Transparenz in Arzneimittelstudien TAS e.V. is an association of mostly scientists and doctors whose aim is to promote transparency about medical drugs. They provide information about new drugs and raise awareness about treatments which might otherwise be too expensive for patients to embark on as some drugs can sometimes have a 90% mark up.

Because of this monopoly large manufacturers have a bigger advantage over smaller companies. TAS e.V. believes that people shouldn't get a drug because its marketing budget is bigger but because it is the most appropriate drug for their needs. They provide doctors and patients with neutral information regarding effects and side effects of drugs, as well as off-label uses, combination therapies and interactions between treatments. Contents of publications, such as clinical trials, are summarized and published on the website for everyone to see making information easy to access and understandable.

Simply Cannabis initiative 

Cannabis is currently a hot topic in medical science. Human beings have the so-called Endocannabinoid system (ECS), a group of many receptors in the body that are activated or inactivated by the "cannabinoids" chemical family. There are more than 100 known cannabinoids and each have their own potential affects on this set of receptors. The ECS can be described as a hub; when activated many other receptors in the body are activated too. It can influence up to 90% of the body’s functions.

A drug based on the most notable cannabinoid’s, THC and Cannabidiol, is already on the European market to treat patients against Multiple sclerosis and has been though to effectively treat ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) but because there are around 300 patients with ALS in Germany this has not been fully proven.

The drug however would be too expensive to cover the costs of market authorization and the pharmaceutical company which owns it is not big enough for a marketing budget to rival larger companies. Many research articles relate the successful use of cannabinoids toward alleviating diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Glaucoma, Depression, ADHD, and decreased pain in cancer patients.

The fact that there are very few side effects (non addictive and only slight cases of nausea) makes it an attractive drug for patients. The problem is that there hasn’t been enough research done on cannabis because of its lack of mass reach. Because the drug is slowly being legalized it makes it less profitable for multinational companies.

The bracts surrounding a cluster of Cannabis sativa flowers are coated with cannabinoid-laden trichomes

Cannabinoids can have huge therapeutic potential and to harness this potential proper methodology and research is needed. There are more than 15000 articles about cannabis on Pubmed (database of scientific articles) and although TAS e.V. is currently a small association their committed members are constantly analyzing articles to get as much information as possible.

Crowdfunding Campaign

To work more effectively and to involve more people TAS e.V. has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Startnext. Their goal is to raise enough funds to hire two scientists (one full time, one part time) for three months to examine all the available literature about cannabis.

If the campaign is successful, each article analyzed would be summed up and published on their website which can be a great source of information on cannabis for worldwide audiences. They also plan on publishing online reviews about the different possible uses of cannabinoids and at the end of the project, all of the information will be published as a book.

Although the campaign is nearing its end there is still time to support this collective effort. The TAS association is determined to make information easier, accessible and clearer for patients and will even re-launch the campaign if the goal isn’t met.

We hope they reach their goal so this unique service can be provided to those who need it most.

By Daniyal Waseem

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