Cannabis meets Big Pharma

Big pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop cannabis-based products that could treat what ails you...without giving you the high.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The use of marijuana to treat health issues is a hot topic, however, big pharmaceutical companies are starting to get in on the action. They are working to develop cannabis-based products that could treat what ails you...without giving you the high.

As a Wine Sommelier, Amy Dixon uses her enhanced sense of taste and smell to tell clients about the distinct properties of fine wines. But, Amy can't see the glass in her hands or what's in it.

Dixon says, "I am on 6 different eye drops, you name it, I am on it."

Amy has uveitis, an inflammatory disease and suffers from 3 types of glaucoma. She's totally blind in her left eye with no peripheral vision in her right. She says it's like looking through a pinhole. Diagnosed at 22, her vision is steadily declining.

She tried hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of drugs, and 16 surgical procedures.

Dr. Heather Nesti, Glaucoma Specialist and Cataract Surgeon at Chesapeake Eye Care and Laser Center says, "All of the treatments whether we do topical drops, laser, or conventional surgery all of those are designed to lower eye pressure in an attempt to slow the disease down."

For years, there has been talk of smoking cannabis--marijuana--to lower eye pressure.

But Dr. Nesti is not a fan. Even though Medical Marijuana for glaucoma is legal in Maryland, where she practices.

"I would not recommend nor do I prescribe marijuana for glaucoma," adds Dr. Nesti.

But she does see promise in cannabis derived pharmaceutical drugs.

Dr. Nesti says, "If we can look at the compounds that can lower eye pressure, select those out and create the delivery systems that specifically target the tissues that don't make us high, then we can use the pharmaceutical aspects of that drug in a positive way."

These treatments in the form of eye drops are being developed, and are much more effective according to the National Center for Biotechnology. In animal trials, cannabis derived medications have been shown to reduce eye pressure up to 50 percent.

While for Amy, her current eye drops only improve the pressure from 2 to 3 percent.

Dixon says, "You'll lose your eyesight very quickly with this kind of pressure. So 2 points of a drop is not going to save your eyesight. 50 percent of a drop will be a sight saving treatment,"

The Glaucoma Research Foundation also believes current medications work better than inhaling marijuana.

Currently California-based Nemus Bioscience Inc.is looking into 6 main cannabis derived extracts that could one day be helpful in treating glaucoma, epilepsy, MRSA and other conditions without the negative side effects of marijuana.

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