A new type of cannabis product was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that is raising red flags in the legal marijuana community. The product is a liquid form of dronabinol, a synthetic version of the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants: THC.
The new drug will be sold under the name Syndros. This is also the first time the FDA approved this type of medicine. Dronabinol first surfaced on the market around the 1980s under the name Marinol. In pill form, it was used to ease the effects of nausea. Unlike Marinol, Syndros supposedly supports a different formula that allows patients to absorb the medicine more efficiently.
Better than Natural Marijuana?
How does Syndros compare to natural cannabis? According to Dr. Perry Solomon, a medical marijuana physician and chief medical officer of HelloMD, traditional weed offers a more robust assortment of healing capabilities (also known as the “entourage effect”). In addition to THC, the herb contains a myriad of other cannabis compounds (CBD and terpenes). Such passive benefits help the plant address multiple symptoms a patient may be facing, instead of just one aspect of the condition.
Syndros is designed to treat weight loss-related ailments, such as anorexia and lack of appetite from cancer chemotherapy treatments. Currently, there are thousands of patients holding dronabinol prescriptions in the U.S. Once the pill is released, Insys may likely be converting the prescriptions to Syndros. The pill also has an impressive shelf life, and does not need to be stored in a refrigerator for 28 days after opening. It is important to consider that a drug test cannot determine if an individual has taken THC naturally from a cannabis plant, or via synthetic means.
“We are very pleased to announce FDA approval of Syndros. We believe that Syndros will be an important new treatment option for patients suffering from the devastating effects of chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, as well as those fighting anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS,” said Chairman, CEO and President of Insys, Dr. John N. Kapoor.
Analysts expect Syndros to perform well in states with restricted medical cannabis laws- like New York, where patients are limited to manufactured cannabinoid variants (patches, oils and strips). In such locations, acquiring consistent amounts of whole-plant marijuana is a tedious process.
The pharmaceutical company is currently waiting for the official scheduling of its latest offering. It is expected to be classified as a Schedule III substance. Under the Controlled Substance Act, Marinol is categorized as a Schedule III. Because of this, Syndros will likely encounter the same fate during the scheduling determination process.
“The scheduling disparity is frustrating to everybody is who trying to do research on the plant and understand the physiological effects of the plant and its chemical components,” said Catherine Jacobson, director of clinical research at Tilray, a Canadian medical cannabis company.