Multiple sclerosis (MS) is associated with muscle stiffness, spasms, pain, and tremor. Much anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabinoids (cannabis derivatives) could help these symptoms. John Zajicek from the University of Plymouth, UK, and colleagues report the findings from the first large-scale randomised trial (funded by the UK Medical Research Council) to investigate the effect of oral cannabinoids on spasticity and other symptoms related to multiple sclerosis.
630 MS patients receiving treatment from 33 UK centres were randomised into three groups (two treatment groups, one placebo group): oral cannabis extract (211 patients), D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, 206 patients), or placebo (213 patients). Assessment took place after 15 weeks, with changes in spasticity (muscle stiffness and jerking movements) objectively assessed using the Ashworth scale being the primary outcome measure of the study.
There was no evidence of a difference in spasticity scores between patients given cannabinoids compared with those given placebo. In all three groups, whilst on treatment, patients were observed to have a small reduction in time taken to walk a short distance-by 12% in the patients who received THC compared with 4% in both the cannabis extract and placebo groups. 60% of patients in the cannabinoid treatment groups reported subjective improvements in spasticity compared with 46% in the placebo group, and 54% of patients given cannabinoids reported improvements in pain compared with 37% in the placebo group. However
Contact: Joe Santangelo