Seattle company to market medical marijuana patch to control pain in dogs, horses

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Aug 16, 2011
National Report — A Seattle company is working on the development of a “pot patch” for pain control in dogs, cats and horses that could be rolled out to the market by the end of the year.

While it’s reported that medical marijuana use in people has gained in popularity in last few years, a veterinary pain management expert says transdermal use of marijuana could have a place in a veterinarian’s armamentarium.

“It actually really could be beneficial if it’s something that is well developed,” says Dr. Lisa Moses, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM. Moses serves on the board of directors for the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management (IVAPM) and leads the pain management service at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. “The problem with a lot of stuff is that we know there’s a lot of things that should work, but because of manufacturing sloppiness or poor regulation on a supplement, we don’t know if our patients are getting what we think they’re getting.”

The patent rights for the marijuana patch were obtained in February by Medical Marijuana Delivery Systems (MMDS) of Seattle. The product will be marketed under the name Tetracan, according to the company, for transcutaneous delivery of medical marijuana to humans and animals.

"Tetracan will become the dominant identity for medical marijuana across the United States and throughout the world," says MMDS spokesperson Jim Alekson. "The industry needs to shed the word 'marijuana,' and focus on the holistic, therapeutic pain relief benefits of topical applications."

Fifteen states, plus Washington D.C. now allow human medical marijuana use. Those states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Six states are considering allowing medical marijuana use, including Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Medical marijuana influences the cannabinoid receptor system, which was identified in the 1990s and found in the most primitive animal forms. The cannabinoid receptor system is the most widespread receptor system in the body, according to the National Pain Foundation (NPF). It has receptors in the brain, spinal cord and periphery, as well as on immune tissues. Molecules called endocannabinoids are produced by the body and interact with these receptors, much like endorphins interact with the body's opioid receptor system. The cannabinoids may help lessen pain and affect a wide range of symptoms and bodily functions, according to NPF.

But the benefits of medical marijuana are still up for debate. In June, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) ruled there was no accepted medical use for marijuana, and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it was reinforcing federal restrictions on the drug. The clash between state and federal laws on marijuana make it nearly impossible for physicians in states that allow its use for medicinal purposes to prescribe the drug without violating federal laws. In fact, by prescribing the drug in states were medical marijuana use is permitted, a physician could lose his or her license, according to NORML.

Moses says she isn’t sure what legal complications may accompany medical marijuana use in animals, but thinks many veterinarians would be hesitant to carry it in their clinics.

“I can certainly see a lot of veterinary clinics being worried about diversion and abuse,” Moses says, adding if DVMs could write a prescription for clients to get the drug from a drugstore rather than the practice, “I bet it would be more accepted.”

But aside from the logistics and regulatory concerns, Moses says she would be interested in learning more about medical marijuana for pain relief in animals. If the patch truly allowed veterinarians to give their patients proper doses of the active ingredient in marijuana, Moses says it could help increase appetite, reduce nausea, improve overall energy, control pain and promote an overall feeling of well-being.

“There are definitely reasons to believe the active ingredient in marijuana affects certain pain mechanisms in the nervous system,” she says. “It’s something I would definitely be interested in trying if it was available to me.”