In 2003, the U.S. Government issued patent no. 6630507 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The patent is titled Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants, and it continues to stir up controversy well over a decade after being issued.
In this article, I’m going to explain what exactly patent no. 6630507 entails and the possible implications that could arise from this patent.
Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants
Some people are under the assumption the patent holders have claimed a right to cannabis in general. This is not the case. The patent is specifically to use cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. So, it’s basically staking a claim on using cannabis as a specific type of medication. Here are some of the specifics outlined in the actual patent:
This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.
While not as overarching as some may believe, the scope of this patent is still rather extensive. The patent not only covers THC (the most popular and well-known cannabinoid) but also CBD as well as dozens of other compounds. Anyone one of these cannabinoids could potentially turn into a life-saving medicine.
This is a topic I feel needs to be addressed because I’ve seen a lot of people online taking things out of context and claiming that patent no. 6630507 outlines cannabis as a cure for cancer. This is false, but let’s talk about the likely reason for the inception of this conspiracy.
The word ‘cancer’ is only mentioned one time in the entire patent. Let’s take a look at the direct quote:
The invention also includes methods for using the antioxidants in prevention and treatment of pathological conditions such as ischemia (tissue hypoxia), and in subjects who have been exposed to oxidant inducing agents such as cancer chemotherapy, toxins, radiation, or other sources of oxidative stress.
The patent does not claim a cure for cancer but rather claims to help with the side effects of chemotherapy – a common treatment for cancer.
Here’s where people start to get really upset with this patent, and for good reason. The fact that the U.S. Government issued a patent for cannabis while still leaving it a schedule 1 narcotic is a direct contradiction and completely hypocritical. Not quite following me? As always, I’ll break it down a bit more.
U.S Drug Schedules
In the U.S., various drugs are placed into different schedules depending on the drug’s perceived acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential. There are 5 schedules. Schedule 5 drugs are considered to be low abuse and some are even sold over the counter in certain states.
As you climb the schedule the drugs begin to get more intense. Schedule 2 contains drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Even these drugs are seen to have medical benefits.
Then there are the schedule 1 drugs. These drugs are considered to have no medical use and high levels of abuse. These drugs include cannabis, LSD, and heroin among others. That’s right, the U.S. Government classifies weed the same as heroin.
National Cancer Institue
To add even more insult, in 2015 the National Cancer Institute released a statement on their website outlining several medical benefits of cannabis. Here are a few of the bullet points from the statement:
– The main active cannabinoid in Cannabis is delta-9-THC. Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which may relieve pain, lower inflammation, and decrease anxiety without causing the “high” of delta-9-THC.
– Cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in the laboratory and the clinic for relief of pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and loss of appetite.
– Cannabis and cannabinoids may have benefits in treating the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer therapies. There is growing interest in treating children for symptoms such as nausea with Cannabis and cannabinoids, although studies are limited.
– Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory.
Let’s not forget that the NCI is a government agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – the folks who own patent no. 6630507. So, why is it that our government can tout the healing powers of cannabis from the health department, but we can’t make any headway in rescheduling the drug. The whole thing is just infuriating.
First off, let’s make sure we all understand that these people did not actually invent cannabis. The inventor is the language used in patents to indicate the person(s) who contribute to the claims of a patentable invention. In this case, the patentable invention is using cannabis as an antioxidant or neuroprotectant.
On patent 6630507 there are 3 people listed as inventors. I’ll briefly go over each one in the order in which they appear on the patent.
Aidan J. Hampson
At the time of this writing, Aidan Hampson works for the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the Division of Pharmacotherapeutic Development. When the patent was applied for Hampson was a research fellow at the National Institute for Mental Health. Nearly all of Hampson’s professional career has been centered around cannabis research.
Julius Axelrod was born in 1912 and passed away in 2004 – about a year after the patent had been issued. Axelrod led a long and prestigious career in science which earned him a shared Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. Axelrod’s professional career revolved around researching various drugs including painkillers and caffeine among many others.
Grimaldi was also a research fellow at the time of the patent writing except he was working at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In addition to research, Grimaldi has served as a college professor. He works as a scientific review officer at the National Institute for Aging at the time of this writing.
Kannalife & the Possible Implications of Patent Licensing
When something is patented there are only two entities who are legally allowed to use the patent – those who own the patent and those who license the patent from the owner. Patent 6630507 lay dormant until 2012 when Kannalife was awarded exclusive rights to use the patent.
Who is Kannalife? Put simply, they’re a pharmaceutical company. They do research and manufacture drugs based on cannabinoids.
So, what’s the problem? Well, the problem isn’t one unique to this case but rather an overarching problem within the pharmaceutical business as a whole. When medicine is patented it restricts the ability for other researchers to develop life-saving treatments. It is particularly frustrating when the patent is held by a government agency who should be acting in the best interest of its citizen’s health. For now, Kannalife basically has a monopoly on working under the large scope this patent offers.
BUT, there’s hope:
The Patent’s Expiration Date
Patents don’t last forever and patent no. 6630507 expires on April 21, 2019. At this time, anyone is free to develop drugs based on the cannabinoids outlined in the patent. It won’t be a free for all though. Like all drugs, it must be approved by the FDA before it can be brought to market.