Sativex is a patented mouth spray pharmaceutical developed for patients with multiple sclerosis to treat and alleviate symptoms. The pharmaceutical drug is currently available in over 24 countries, and though it has yet to be approved in the US, it’s still a ground-breaking drug that’s gained approval in countries where marijuana is not legal. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s Not Synthetic

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Unlike other pharmaceutically produced cannabinoids, Sativex is made from THC and CBD exclusively from the Cannabis plant. This chemical compound is called Nabiximol. In other words, it’s more plant than pharmacy, though is classified as a pharmaceutical. The production process ensures that Sativex’s concentration is equal parts THC and CBD and it’s considered to be a tincture of cannabis.

Side Effects

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Sativex is made from cannabis and therefore produces intoxication or a high, with cannabis-like side effects such as dizziness and fatigue. However, the 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD in the drug make it a very mild high and because it’s manufactured in a controlled environment, the dosage is consistent. It is also reported that there are no long-term negative effects on cognition.


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Sativex is not a cheap drug. Without government subsidies to help pay the cost, the drug is incredibly expensive. In New Zealand, less than 8% of approved patients for Sativex filled a prescription because the drug was “too expensive,” with an average annual prescription costing around $16,650 (USD). According to a professor at the London School of Medicine, Sativex has “not been proven to be cost-effective” in the UK. However, if Sativex is approved by the FDA in the US, the price would be considerably lower and governments would probably take on subsidies.

It Treats MS Patients, But No Significant Change In Cancer Patients

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Sativex has undergone many clinical trials for a variety of medical conditions. The most common medical condition is the treatment of symptoms from multiple sclerosis, including spasticity, general pain, bladder pain and insomnia. Although Sativex produces a high, there is no evidence that users have developed a tolerance for the drug over a one-year period.

GW Pharmaceuticals, the creators of Sativex, hope that the drug will treat a number of other medical conditions, including epilepsy, diabetes, schizophrenia and cancer. Unfortunately, in January 2015 GW Pharmaceuticals published results that found no significant difference between subjects using its product and those given a placebo in cancer patients.

Legal In Many Places, But It Is Not “Marijuana”

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Patented by GW Pharmaceuticals in 1999, Sativex has been accepted as a drug in over 15 countries like the UK where marijuana—even medical marijuana—is illegal. The way many countries and pharmaceutical corporations skirt this technicality is by classifying Sativex as its chemical name “Naxibimol” instead of marijuana, just like other marijuana-based pharmaceuticals do. Sativex is both medicine and marijuana, but it is possible for it be legalized in countries where medical marijuana is not even legal thanks to tricky legal definitions.

Although Sativex was approved for the FDA’s Fast Track in 2014, this was for developing a treatment for cancer patients, which has been proven unsuccessful in stage one trials. However, it’s possible that Sativex could be approved by the FDA for MS patients in the next year.


Header photo credit: GW Pharma

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