Cannabis leaves have been found effective in alleviating pain and other symptoms in cancer patients post chemotherapy and radiotherapy, according to a study conducted by an autonomous body under the ministry of AYUSH.
The pilot study was carried out by the Central Council For Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) in collaboration with the Gujarat Ayurved University, Jamnagar, on patients undergoing treatment at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.
Taking it forward, a largescale study will be conducted beginning March next year at the AIIMS to examine and validate the efficacy of cannabis in reducing side-effects in patients suffering from breast and cervix cancer, among others. Usually cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy suffer from severe pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and anxiety.
"In the pilot study conducted earlier this year, cannabis leaves-based drugs have been found effective in alleviating pain and other symptoms in cancer patients post- chemo and radiotherapy," Professor Vaidya K S Dhiman, the director general of CCRAS said.
The aim of the proposed AIIMS study is to validate these cannabis leaves-based drugs in order to standardise and exploit the potential of alternative therapy in improving the quality of life for cancer patients, he said.
Also, research is underway at the CCRAS for developing drugs based on cannabis for other ailments, Dhiman said.
Meanwhile, research to develop cost-effective cannabis based drugs for treatment of pain in cancer, epilepsy and sickle cell anaemia is being conducted by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research - Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR - IIIM) in collaboration with Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO).
Cannabis is being cultivated at the Jammu-based IIIM research station which has obtained licence from the state government to grow it to study its medicinal properties so that drugs can be developed for Indian population.
Cannabis based formulations that have been approved in other countries are being imported for fast-tracking clinical approvals in India and also trials on animals are being conducted.
IIIM Director Ram Vishwakarma said they want to conduct clinical trials of the drugs on terminally ill patients at the Tata Memorial Hospital for cancer, at the AIIMS for epilepsy and Sickle Cell Institute Chhattisgarh (SCIC) for sickle cell anaemia.
Vishwakarma said they are in talks with the Drug Controller General of India's office to acquire approval for conducting trials to see the utility of cannabis as medicine in India.