Cannabis May Have Long-Term Benefit for MS
Sep 10, 8:15
By Patricia Reaney
Source: Yahoo News
EXETER, England (Reuters) - Cannabis-based treatments may have longer-term benefits for multiple sclerosis patients, scientists said on Friday.
The findings of a short, 15-week trial of MS patients published last year were inconclusive because although patients reported relief in muscle stiffness, rigidity and mobility, the findings could not be confirmed by physiotherapists.
But Dr John Zajicek, of the Peninsula Medical School at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in southwestern England who headed the study, told a conference there seemed to be further benefits for patients who continued treatment for a year.
"In the short term-study there was some evidence of cannabinoids alleviating symptoms of multiple sclerosis; in the longer term there is a suggestion of a more useful beneficial effect, which was not clear at the initial stage," he said.
Cannabis contains more than 60 different cannabinoids. The most active is thought to be tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The 667 patients in the original study, which was reported in The Lancet medical journal, were given a cannabis extract or capsules with a synthetic version of THC or a placebo for 15 weeks.
About 80 percent of patients opted to continue the treatments for up to a year.
"We have generated interesting results which suggest there may be long-term benefits," Zajicek told a news conference at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (news - web sites).
But he added that more research is needed to confirm the findings, which will be published later this year.
MS, which affects about one million people worldwide, is a disease in which immune system cells destroy the myelin sheath that protects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Although cannabinoids have been used in medicine for thousands of years, until recently there has been little scientific evidence of any therapeutic values.
Last year, the Netherlands became the world's first country to make cannabis available as a prescription drug for cancer, HIV (news - web sites) and MS. In the United States it is used to treat weight loss in AIDS (news - web sites) patients and nausea and vomiting in cancer sufferers.