Study: Inhaled Cannabis Reduces Symptoms In Patients With Treatment-Resistant Multiple Sclerosis

Study: Inhaled Cannabis Reduces Symptoms In Patients With Treatment-Resistant Multiple SclerosisSan Diego, CA: Cannabis inhalation mitigates spasticity and pain in patients with treatment-resistant multiple sclerosis (MS), according to clinical trial data published online this week in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ).

Investigators at the University of California, San Diego assessed the use of inhaled cannabis versus placebo in 30 patients with MS who were unresponsive to conventional treatments. Authors reported that cannabis administration resulted in a decrease in subjects’ spasticity, as measured on the modified Ashworth scale, and reduced patients’ pain scores on a visual analogue scale.

"Smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in symptom and pain reduction in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity," authors concluded.

Investigators cautioned that cannabis-inhalation was also negatively associated with short-term "acute cognitive effects." However, they noted that the "clinical significance of this result is uncertain … (because) patients were still within the normal range for their ages and levels of education." Overall, researchers described cannabis therapy as "generally well tolerated."

The trial is one of several recently published studies funded by the California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research demonstrating the short-term safety and efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of a variety of hard-to-treat disease conditions.

Separate clinical trials assessing the administration of oral cannabis extracts on patients with MS have shown that cannabinoids can alleviate symptoms of the disease long-term and may also act in ways to mitigate MS progression. Sativex, an oral spray containing plant cannabis extracts, is presently legal by prescription to treat MS-related symptoms in over a dozen countries, including Canada, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Spain. Nonetheless, the National MS Society shares little enthusiasm for cannabis as a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis in the United States, stating, "Studies completed thus far have not provided convincing evidence that marijuana or its derivatives provide substantiated benefits for symptoms of MS."

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, "Smoked cannabis for spasticity in multiple sclerosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial," appears in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association.