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UPDATE 1-Indivior looks beyond opioid addiction with foray into cannabis disorder treatment

(Adds CEO comment, background)

June 8 (Reuters) - Indivior said on Tuesday it was expanding into medicines for cannabis-related disorders, as the British drugmaker looks to diversify beyond core sales of opioid-addiction treatments.

London-listed Indivior said it has agreed to pay $30 million upfront to Aelis Farma, a privately held French company, under an agreement to work exclusively on its lead experimental drug, which blocks a type of cannabinoid receptor. (refini.tv/3g3MREA)

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant and they include THC, the psychoactive component which causes hallucinations.

Aelis Farma’s drug, AEF0117, inhibits the CB1 receptor found largely in the nervous system and also some other tissues. The receptor helps in communicating sensations such as pain, and regulating memory and eating behaviour.

The treatment, which Aelis has worked on for seven years, selectively inhibits the CB1 receptor when the body has been made hyperactive and preserves other routine body functions, the French company said. (refini.tv/3gbit9O)

The treatment had shown positive results in an early-to-mid stage trial with patients who had cannabis addiction. Aelis is eligible for $100 million more, if the next trial stage is successful, as well as income from milestone payments and sales, Indivior said.

“Increasing prevalence of cannabis from the growing movement to legalize medical and recreational marijuana use is leading to greater concern for the potential of adverse outcomes, including elevated addiction risk,” Indivior Chief Executive Officer Mark Crossley said.

An estimated 192 million people worldwide used cannabis in 2018, making it the most used drug in the world, the United Nations said in a report last year. (bit.ly/2SinaqC) (Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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