Insys Therapeutics receives DEA approval for synthetic marijuana drug

Phoenix-based Insys Therapeutics, an opponent of marijuana legalization, last week earned preliminary approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency for its synthetic marijuana drug Syndros, reports The Washington Post.

Here are three things to know.

1. The Food and Drug Administration approved Syndros, which is a synthetic version of THC, in July 2016 to treat nausea, vomiting and weight loss in patients with cancer and AIDS, according to the report. The DEA's recent decision to classify Syndros as a Schedule II controlled substance places it among the ranks of drugs like morphine and cocaine that pose a high risk for abuse.

2. Last summer, Insys donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy — an advocacy group opposing marijuana legalization in the state. The Washington Post found the donation amounted to 10 percent of the group's total funds raised and represented the only donation from a drug company.

"It fails to protect the safety of Arizona's citizens and particularly its children," Insys told The Washington Post last year, referencing the legalization proposal. Despite this opposition, the drugmaker said it "firmly believes in the potential clinical benefits of cannabinoids."

3. In 2011, the drugmaker sent a letter to the DEA to oppose loosening restrictions on THC. However, in 2016, Insys petitioned the federal agency to lower restrictions for the synthetic form of CBD — another substance derived from the cannabis plant. The drugmaker is developing a treatment for pediatric epilepsy that uses CBD, according to the report.

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