June 26, 2014

Small study reports benefit of cannabis on MS spasticity

Preliminary findings from a small randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind cross-over trial suggested that smoked cannabis was beneficial in reducing spasticity and pain in people with treatment resistant spasticity compared to placebo. [Jody Corey-Bloom MD PhD, Tanya Wolfson MA, Anthony Gamst PhD, Shelia Jin MD MPH, Thomas D. Marcotte PhD, Heather Bentley BA, Ben Gouaux BA. Canadian Medical Association Journal. CMAJ 2012. DOI:10.1503 /cmaj.110837]

A research team from the University of California, San Diego, conducted a small randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind cross-over trial to determine the short-term safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis on MS related spasticity and pain as compared with placebo. The trial included 30 adult participants, 19 females and 11 males with an average age of 51 years old. Of the 30 participants, 20 had secondary-progressive MS and ten had relapsing-remitting MS.  Overall, 21 of the participants were being treated with disease-modifying therapies and 18 of the participants were being treated with an antispasticity agent. Eighty per cent of the participants had used cannabis recreationally prior to the study and 33% had used cannabis during the previous year.

Participants were randomly assigned to either the intervention, smoking cannabis (containing 4% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ) once daily for three days, or the control, which involved smoking the placebo cigarettes once daily for three days. The cannabis and placebo cigarettes were provided pre-rolled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Participants were screened twice before initiating treatment. Following an 11 day wash-out period after Phase I of the trial, participants crossed-over to the opposite treatment group for Phase II.

Participants in the inhaled cannabis group demonstrated a reduction in spasticity scores and pain compared to placebo. There were no serious adverse effects during the trial and the inhaled cannabis was generally well-tolerated however it was coupled with acute cognitive effects (feeling of being ‘high’).

More research is required to examine different dosage amounts with similar beneficial outcomes and less cognitive impairment.