Brazil’s health authority gave approval for cancer patients in their country to begin importing Real Scientific Hemp Oil™ for the treatment of cancer symptoms. With a prescription, cancer patients can now access the hemp-derived cannabis oil, which is 100% subsidized by the country’s healthcare system. This marks the first time a major federal government has supported the use of any cannabis product to treat cancer.
The Brazilian government has not yet conducted clinical trials on CBD (cannabidiol) as a cancer treatment and has decided, at this time, to lead with the anecdotal evidence, existing scientific research, and the expertise of the nation’s doctors when making their decision to include cancer among the approved indications for which RSHO™ CBD hemp oil can be imported.
Medical Marijuana, Inc., the makers of RSHO™, made it clear in a press release that they are managing the situation cautiously. “We are right now tempering our excitement because this is a process and it needs to be approached carefully and scientifically,” stated Dr. Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc.
The news comes amid a spike in new cancer cases in Latin America that is expected to continue over the next few decades. The increase has been felt more in Brazil than in neighboring countries. Brazilians have a 20% chance of getting cancer before the age of 75. There are nearly half a million new cases of cancer in Brazil yearly, and Brazilians experience a mortality rate of 225,000 cancer deaths a year. Although Brazilians are diagnosed with cancer at a lower rate than countries in North America and Northern Europe, the mortality rate from cancer in Brazil is just over twice that of the U.S., meaning effective treatments are needed desperately.
There is an additional need for cancer treatment in Brazil due to a rare and often overlooked genetic mutation to the p53 gene, responsible for tumor control at a cellular level in humans, which occurs at extraordinarily high rates in parts of Southern Brazil. Those with this mutation, which is passed down genetically through family lines, experience cancer at up to ten times the rate of the general population, often getting cancer at an early age and sometimes experiencing dozens of tumors in their lifetime. Similarly high incidents of this mutation to the p53 gene occur in Paraguay, suggesting a link among Latin American countries.
Worldwide, we see continuing trends of cancer growth among developing countries like Brazil, China, and India, stemming from the adoption of unhealthy Western diets and habits, such as smoking tobacco products. As these populations take on the unhealthy lifestyles of modern Western countries, their cancer rates increase. However, unlike Western countries, which are finally seeing progress in their fight against cancer with prevention campaigns and innovative new treatments, cancer centers in these countries are struggling to keep up. The World Health Organization has predicted a 70% increase in new cancer cases worldwide over the next two decades. Now more than ever, alternatives to costly and time consuming options for fighting cancer are needed in these developing nations.
Before Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s entry into the Brazilian market, all cannabis products, including those from hemp, were illegal in Brazil. Through a grassroots campaign to raise awareness and the establishing of HempMeds® Brasil, in 2014, RSHO™ became the first legal cannabis product in Brazil, a nation of over 200 million people, when ANVISA removed cannabidiol (CBD) from Brazil’s prohibited substance list.
The Brazilian government soon followed this historic policy change by removing the import tax for CBD products and subsidizing the full cost of CBD for patients under their healthcare system. Through Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s campaign of education and patient advocacy, ANVISA has since expanded the list of indications under which RSHO™ is available with a prescription. In addition to cancer, Brazil has approved three other indications for the use of RSHO™: epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic pain, including migraine headaches. There are several more indications pending Brazil’s approval for import.
Studies showing the tumor fighting properties of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) date back to 1975, when Munson et al. demonstrated that THC inhibited the growth of lung cancer cells in mice. More recently, CBD has become the focus of medical studies into cancer because it is non-psychoactive. A study from 2006 showed that CBD affected the cancer cell’s ability to proliferate, invade, and metastasize. More recently in 2012, it was shown that CBD also hindered cancer cells from forming new blood vessels, removing their ability to grow.
In animal models, CBD has displayed the ability to inhibit the progression of a number of forms of cancer, including the top three most prominent: lung, prostate, and colon. Breast cancer, the top cancer in women, is also treatable with CBD according to the study.
Although there have been no clinical trials conducted on cannabinoids for the treatment of cancer, this research shows that both whole plant cannabis and individual cannabinoids have the potential for fighting the growth of cancer cells and inhibiting their spreading to new parts of the body. These results, combined with the ability of cannabis to help abate the side effects of chemotherapy, make the addition of RSHO™ to cancer treatments a welcome new tool in the Brazil’s fight against cancer.
Two prominent side effects of chemotherapy are nausea and wasting, the extreme weight loss associated with a loss in appetite. A 2001 study showed that cannabis was a more effective antiemetic (antinausea) than accepted treatments: like prochlorperazine, metoclopramide, chlorpromazine, thiethylperazine, haloperidol, domperidone, or alizapride. Unlike these prescription treatments for nausea, which often include multi-pill combinations, cannabis works as an all-in-one medication. Cannabis is also helpful in preventing the wasting typically seen in chemotherapy patients. Previously studied as a relief for AIDS patients, it was found that cannabis is effective for chemotherapy patients as well. A 2015 study stated that “cannabinoids have a definite effect on weight gain and, bearing this in mind, have been used to increase food intake in cancer patients.” Working to prevent nausea and increase the appetite, cannabis treats both of these common side effects from chemotherapy in a single drug, instead of spread out among several harsh medications.
Having possibly the biggest impact on the quality of life of cancer patients, though, is the neuropathy or nerve pain that is caused by some chemotherapies. There are no accepted curative treatments, but like with wasting, previous clinical studies into HIV also show promise for cancer. In 2010, a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that smoked cannabis three times daily “reduced the intensity” of neuropathic pain and even improved sleep.
Sara Jane Ward from the Temple University School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia revealed that CBD or “cannabidiol has pain- and inflammation-reducing effects, while avoiding the psychoactive side effects of marijuana and other “cannabinoid” compounds.” This non-psychoactivity has often been noted as a benefit in choosing CBD over other cannabinoids in medical treatments.
Despite not being an approved treatment for cancer outside of Brazil, cannabis oil has been used to treat cancer in the U.S. and abroad for some time. Many patients begin using the oil as a means of dealing with the side effects from chemo and radiation therapies. However, before long, patients, including those with a deadly stage 4 diagnosis, begin to report that their tumors have shrunk or even disappeared. Some patients, given just months to live, find themselves living cancer free.
Cash Hyde, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 20 months, is the most famous of these stories. Round after round of chemotherapy left the boy sicker, weaker, but wasn’t stopping the tumor’s growth. The parents, faced with the choice of letting the boy die or trying something different, snuck cannabis oil into the boys feeding tube in the hospital. Against all odds, Cash began getting better, and soon he was off all other medications. Together with his father, Cash toured the country raising awareness for the role cannabis played in Cash’s life. His parents held Cash’s cancer at bay until he was 4 with cannabis oil, until a change in Montana’s medical marijuana law cut off supply. Tragically, without cannabis oil to keep his tumor from growing back, Cash died in November of 2012.
Since typical treatments of marijuana-based cannabis oil will require up to 1000 mg of cannabinoids a day, there is the concern of becoming “stoned” from the treatment. At such high doses, many patients report being quite high as a result. Because RSHO™ has such an exceptionally low THC content, it is possible to achieve high doses of CBD without the psychoactive effects of THC, which may be one of the reasons why governments are more accepting of CBD oil.
RSHO™ is available in the U.S.A. as a dietary supplement, sold online by Medical Marijuana, Inc. and its subsidiary, HempMeds®. Under FDA regulations, products sold as dietary supplements cannot contain claims regarding their effectiveness in the promotion of health or the treatment of disease.
Patients in Brazil who are interested in learning more about RSHO™ can visit HempMeds® Brasil.