Canada backs GW's cannabis drug

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GW Pharmaceuticals, which had its cannabis-based medicine turned down by the UK regulator this month, has moved a step closer to launching the drug on the Canadian market.

Canada, which allows the medicinal use of smoked cannabis, is less than six months from becoming the first country in the world to approve cannabis as a prescription painkiller for multiple sclerosis sufferers.

After seven months of deliberation, GW has been given qualified approval to launch the spray, called Sativex, and now moves into a final stage of negotiations with Health Canada, the regulator, covering marketing and patient information. GW shares rose 8 per cent to 113.5p after the company said Sativex would be on sale by late spring.

The news partially reversed the disappointment of earlier this month, when the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said it was unconvinced that GW's trial data was enough to prove the medicine should be approved in this country. An aggrieved GW has agreed to do more work to show the benefit of Sativex in relieving spasms.

Geoffrey Guy, theexecutive chairman of GW, said: "By May, we had already benefited from ... detailed negotiations with the UK regulator, so our dossier was greatly improved by the time it got to the Canadians."