Researchers developing cannabis-based drugs for use in India
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is doing a research on the medicinal use of cannabis for treating diseases like cancer, epilepsy and sickle cell anaemia.
"We have got a license from the Jammu and Kashmir government for conducting the research programme. We have already started it and will soon meet the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for approval of use of cannabis as drugs for trial on humans," Ram Vishwakarma, Director, CSIR-IIIM (Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine) told the media here on Friday.
In April 2017, the Centre and the Ministry of Health and Welfare issued a research licence to grow cannabis to the CSIR-IIIM in collaboration with Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO).
To carry ahead the research programme on a larger scale, CSIR has also joined hands with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), under Ministry of Science and Technology.
"CSIR will primarily conduct the research part while ICMR will provide medical experts. These sort of research projects require good funding and therefore the finance part will be taken care of by DBT," he added.
For the research, CSIR has selected a certain variety of cannabis plants like THC and CBC which are a class of compounds known as cannabinoids, found in abundance in the cannabis plant.
"Not all cannabis plants can be used for medical purpose. We have already started collecting and cultivating selected breed of cannabis. Trials are also being conducted on animals and once it is completed, we will place it for DCGI's approval," Vishwakarma said.
The CSIR-IIIM Director further said that on the primary basis, the impact of the drugs procured from cannabis will be conducted first in Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai.
"AIIMS have also agreed along with NIMHANS and Sickle Cell Institute Raipur, Chattisgarh. We would certainly want more medical institutes to join in the process so that the benefit of cannabis on health can be known," Vishwakarma said.
Vivek Benegal, Professor, Centre for Addiction Medicine, NIMHANS said that some early studies have explored the beneficial effects of cannabidiol on persons addicted to opioids like heroin, alcohol and even tobacco.
"This chemical will have useful applications in the treatment of addictive disorders. But before that, the molecule must be subject to stringent and scientifically rigorous testing. This is difficult due to its current ambiguous position under the law in India, especially the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act," Benegal added.
(With inputs from agencies.)