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High time: Drugs board OKs cannabis extract

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It’s high time.

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has formally approved the use of cannabidiol (CBD), a pain-relieving component of cannabis or marijuana, by Filipinos suffering from serious ailments, especially severe forms of epilepsy — but subject to strict guidelines.

There has been scientific proof that CBD — which is derived from the hemp plant, a “cousin” of cannabis — alleviates seizures in people with epilepsy.

According to doctors who have been studying cannabis and its various compounds, CBD can protect the nervous system and provide relief from seizures, pain, anxiety and inflammation.

As of 2014, there were an estimated 250,000 children in the Philippines suffering from epileptic seizure disorder, according to Dr. Donnabel Cunanan, a dentist and founding member and spokesperson for the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society (PCCS), the lead advocate of House Bill 279 which seeks to legalize and regulate the use of medical cannabis and expand research into its medicinal properties.

The same bill was passed on third reading by the House but failed to become law under the 17th Congress in 2019.

DDB Undersecretary Benjie Reyes, in an interview with this reporter in February 2020, said: “Actually, our position is, there is no need for a bill. It can hasten (the process) if the legislature will pass the bill. We don’t have to wait for the CND decision because our local laws will take precedence.

“But even without the law, as long as it’s in medicine form, it (CBD) can be registered,” he said. “Just like opiates, morphine, those are dangerous drugs, but in medicine form, it can be used. Cocaine is used for anesthesia.”

The DDB is the government’s policy-making and strategy-formulating body on the prevention and control of drug abuse.

The approval of CBD as medicine is the subject of a DDB board regulation on 24 September, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Tribune.

The regulation, signed by DDB chairperson Catalino Cuy, contained the “reclassification of CBD, one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis plants,” from Schedule 1 to Schedule 4.

It is “a category of dangerous drugs in the Philippine Schedule with currently accepted medical use in the Philippines.”

Previously, CBD, along with cannabis itself, was classified as “Schedule 1, a category of dangerous drugs in the Philippine Schedule with no currently accepted medical use in the Philippines and with lack of accepted safety for use of such dangerous drugs under medical supervision.”

Allowed for legal use is CBD “with no more than 0.1 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”

THC, the most prominent among hundreds of compounds found in cannabis, produces the “high” or its psychoactive effects.

 

Guidelines

The DDB board regulation said “only physicians with S2 Licenses… members of specialty divisions or societies engaged in neurology can prescribe the drug products containing CBD.

An “S2 License” is solely given to physicians, veterinarians, or dentists who can legally prescribe dangerous drugs.

The DDB regulation further said: “Physicians shall use the Special Prescription Form for Dangerous Drugs of the Department of Health in prescribing drug products containing CBD.

“An Authorization from the Dangerous Drugs Board shall be secured prior to or simultaneous with the submission of an application to avail of Drug Products Containing CBD through the Compassionate Special Permit for Restricted Use of Dangerous Drugs with the Food and Drug Administration.

“The application for Authorization shall be addressed to the Executive Director of the Dangerous Drugs Board, thru the Legal Affairs Division, together with the following information/requirements:

a. Contact details of the patient or authorized representative;

b. Patient profile or clinical chart of the patient;

c. Special Prescription Form for Dangerous Drugs from an S2-licensed physician indicating the drug product containing CBD with no more than 0.1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol;

d. Payment of P500 fee.

“This Regulation shall take effect 15 days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation and registration with the Office of the National Administrative Register, UP Law Center, Quezon City.”

“Yes, 15 days after publication… it is already effective. So, medications with the composition mentioned can be registered with our local FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” Reyes told Daily Tribune.

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