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Cannabis-based medicine relieves the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and suppresses the disease

The first study to use a cannabis-based medicine (CBM) for treating rheumatoid arthritis has found that it has a significant effect on easing pain and on suppressing the disease.

Writing in the medical journal Rheumatology [1], the researchers say that although the differences were small and variable in the group of 56 patients they studied, the results are statistically significant and a larger trial is needed to investigate in more detail the effects of CBM on the disease which affects approximately 600,000 people in the UK (1 in 100 of the population).[2]

There is anecdotal evidence that cannabis can provide pain relief for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and in a recent survey 155 (16%) of 947 people who obtained cannabis on the black market for medicinal reasons said they did so to obtain relief from symptoms of RA. However, this study in Rheumatology journal, led by David Blake, Professor of Bone and Joint Medicine at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD), Bath, and the University of Bath, UK, is the first randomised controlled trial to investigate the effect of a CBM on RA. It is published online today (Wednesday 9 November).

In the double-blind trial, the researchers randomised 31 patients to receive the CBM and 27 the placebo. The CBM (brand name: Sativex) was in the form of an easy-to-use mouth spray that patients could administer themselves up to a maximum of six doses a day. The CBM consisted of a blend of whole plant extracts, standardised for content, that delivered approximately equal amounts of two key therapeutic constituents from the cannabis plant: delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Mouse studies have shown that THC and CBD have anti-inflammatory effects, and that CBD blocked progression of RA and produced improvements in symptoms.

Dr Ronald Jubb, Consultant Rheumatologist, at the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, UK, said: "Patients had a ba
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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@mac.com
44-137-656-3090
Oxford University Press
8-Nov-2005


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