What Is Sativex?

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  • Written By: Andy Josiah
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Sativex is a mouth spray geared toward people suffering from the inflammatory disease known as multiple sclerosis (MS). It is classified as a cannabinoid, which means that it is formed from the Cannabis sativa plant, or marijuana, from which it derives its name. The spray is essentially marijuana in liquid form. British health care/pharmaceutical firm GW Pharmaceuticals develops and manufactures the spray, while Germany-based Bayer Schering Pharma AG markets it.

The Sativex mouth spray consists of two chemical compounds, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD acts as a sedative, or tranquilizer. This means that it can help reduce excitement or irritability. THC is the cannabis plant’s primary psychoactive substance, useful for manipulating certain functions of the brain such as consciousness, behavior, moods and cognition.

The main target of Sativex is people with MS who experience involuntary muscle movements. The spray, however, has also been known to help fight other related conditions such as bladder dysfunction and spasticity, which involves tightening of the muscles. Additionally, Sativex can be used as a painkiller by reducing MS- and cancer-related pain.

Sativex comes in a container with a maximum capacity of 100 microliters. Each spray has 2.5 milligrams of CBD and 2.7 milligrams of THC. It also contains about 0.04 grams of alcohol. The treatment is only meant for oral administration, and the dosage gradually increases from one to 12 times a day over a two-week period.


So far, there have been no significant side effects reported concerning Sativex. Some patients, however, may experience some dizziness. Elderly patients are generally more likely to develop certain adverse effects to their central nervous systems when taking the spray. People who have cardiovascular disease, are pregnant or are younger than 18 years of age are discouraged from using Sativex.

In 2010, Sativex received its first approval when it was licensed for prescription to MS patients suffering from spasticity in the United Kingdom. As of 2011, the mouth spray was exported to almost 30 countries in the world, thanks to a deal between GW and Novartis. Regarding the United States, GW signed an agreement with Otsuka Pharmaceutical for exclusive development and marketing of the drug in the country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is conducting a Phase III clinical trial of Sativex for treating cancer pain; thus, the medication is on its way to approval in the U.S., particularly for off-label use on MS patients.


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