Cannabis holds great promise in treating dementia and Alzheimer's disease. But the opportunity is being allegedly blocked by the federal regulators in the United States, according to researchers.
Reports say that California's Salk Institute is facing legal hurdles in advancing the research in cannabis cure. Their goal is to offer an effective treatment for these fatal diseases that is afflicting millions of Americans.
This is despite the proven evidence that cannabis carries chemicals that can unclog the protein buildup in the brain causing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
But the federal opposition to the drug is making that cure long and difficult, according to researchers.
The work of Salk Institute in California showed that cannabis process can avoid cell death while countering buildup and inflammation in the cells, quite early in the treatment of the disease.
Given that cannabis can offer safe and effective treatment by combining low cost and minimal side-effects, it must be a cause for celebration and ray of hope for millions of Americans who are in the grip of the fatal disease.
The Institute's preliminary study published in mid-2016 showed amyloid beta, the harmful protein causing Alzheimer's disease, can be removed by the cannabinoids present in cannabis, including euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and will save the brain cell from damage.
Lead author Professor David Schubert noted that despite the innovative results, researchers' next steps were being obstructed by federal regulation and red tape.
The institute approached the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for permission to use cannabis extracts for tests on mice in December, but it is yet to receive any reply.
"It's a totally unexplored area, because researchers have been stopped by the DEA, due to the way the agency classifies marijuana," Schubert said.
They are hoping that better flexibility by lawmakers can create an encouraging atmosphere to offer cost- effective medical solutions, especially in Alzheimer's disease.
Pharma Lobby Blamed
Schubert blamed the pharmaceutical industry for creating legal hurdles in the path of cannabis researchers with its lobbying power in D.C.
"The pharmaceutical companies want to stop the use of cannabis in the research community because it's a natural product, so it can't be patented," he said.
Schubert expressed dismay at classifying cannabis as Schedule I drug when anyone in California can legally go down to the corner store and buy marijuana.
Mounting Treatment Costs
It is also pointed out that regulatory indifference is holding back effective treatment that is costly from an economic point of view.
A study by the National Institutes of Health in 2015 showed that the costs for treating late-stage dementia are more than any other disease. The overall economic cost of caring for dementia and Alzheimer's patients totaled a massive $236 billion in 2016.
According to reports, Alzheimer's fatality rates have gone up by 70 percent since 2000.
According to Schubert, many drug companies are spending millions of dollars to search for potential treatments of the disease and said they are pursuing a wrong method.
"They are trying to use antibodies to get rid of plaque that is outside the cell, but that is too late in the disease," Schubert said.