Marijuana-based diabetes drug progresses in U.K.

Researchers are trying to determine how to utilize compounds in marijuana to control insulin levels. A U.K. drugmaker reports promise with a new marijuana-based drug and a survey finds pot-smokers have better insulin levels than non-pot-smokers.



Could future diabetes drug development be tied to the growing medical marijuana industry? U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals reported in July that a drug using a cannabinoid compound from marijuana showed promising results in helping boost insulin production among diabetics, according to a Bloomberg report:

In a mid-stage study, an experimental drug, currently known by its candidate name GWP42004, helped improve the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin and led to a drop in blood sugar levels between meals, among other findings, according to the London-based company. GW plans to publish the results of that trial this year.

(One interesting factoid in the news report: GW said it harvested the compound from marijuana it grows at an “undisclosed location”. Sounds dramatic, no? )

This comes on the heels of a May report that found that regular marijuana users had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels than those who never took a puff, according to Science Daily. The results, part of the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES), found that regular marijuana users had smaller waist circumference than non-users, as well, despite taking in more daily calories than non-users…a process known in layman terms as “getting the munchies”.

But if you’re living in one of the 19 states that have approved medical marijuana, don’t expect to pick up something green to go along with your diabetic supplies just yet. The FDA is setting a high bar for new diabetes medicine, and the medical marijuana community is still watching warily to see what the Obama administration will do now that Washington and Colorado have expanded the playing field of marijuana use. Besides, while researchers know that cannabinoids seem to help with insulin production, they are still scratching their heads, scientifically-speaking, about how the process works.

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Craig Idlebrook is managing editor for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation. He's written about health policy, environmental health, community health, and maternal health for over 25 publications. You can reach him at cidlebrook@epscomm.com.