Grant Will Fund MedPharm Study of Cannabinoids’ Effects in Alzheimer’s

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by Mary Chapman |

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Cannabis researcher MedPharm has been granted funding to study the effect of phytocannabinoids — naturally occurring chemicals, called cannabinoids, from marijuana plants — on Alzheimer’s disease, with the ultimate aim of treatment development.

The new funding comes from the Colorado State University Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR). It was awarded to MedPharm for its proposal, titled “Isolation and Pharmacological Evaluation of Phytocannabinoids for Alzheimer’s Disease.”

MedPharm, which specializes in neuropharmacology with a focus on Alzheimer’s and dementia, is expected to launch its study Oct. 1.

Phytocannabinoids are naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis (marijuana) plants. Cannabinoids are chemicals derived from cannabis.

“The study results will allow MedPharm to further develop innovative, bioavailable, and bioequivalent dosage forms,” said Scott Karolchyk, MedPharm’s director of formulation and development, in a press release. “These are important elements in support of Investigational New Drugs (INDs) and New Drug Applications (NDAs) for future FDA-approved products.”

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Early research has suggested that phytocannabinoids may be able to mitigate the psychological and behavioral symptoms of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease. Such products, if developed, could potentially help to erode the abnormal accumulation of amyloid, the protein that’s linked to disease progression in Alzheimer’s.

In particular, the phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties, with no psychoactive or cognition-impairing elements.

Still, there has been a dearth of large, well-controlled clinical studies that have measured the effect of cannabis or its compounds on Alzheimer’s symptoms, according to the researchers.

“It’s by pursuing this one-of-a-kind study in an area where research is really needed that sets MedPharm apart from other cannabis research and development companies,” said Albert Gutierrez, MedPharm president. “Alzheimer’s is a terrible brain disease. Any way we can provide therapies to help treat it, such as doing a pharmacological evaluation to find out what a certain compound can do, we know helps us close in on a better understanding of Alzheimer’s, and perhaps a pathway to greater and more helpful cannabis-based therapies down the road.”

The grant announcement comes as Alzheimer’s researchers are actively seeking sources of additional funding. In June, the U.S. House Appropriations Health and Human Services subcommittee proposed a $200 million hike in federal Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding.

“This is a big win for not only our team, but the entire cannabinoid research community,” Duncan Mackie, PhD, MedPharm’s director of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, said about the grant. “The completion of this project will provide the first clear mechanistic and cellular evidence for the application of cannabis and cannabinoid-based natural products for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neuroinflammatory diseases.”

Gutierrez said the ICR grant will allow MedPharm to further understand the medicinal effect of cannabis compounds on the human body.

“Helping people live better, happier, and more productive lives has always been the focus of MedPharm,” he added.

The amount of the grant was not disclosed.