MS Society Comment on MRC Cannabis Announcement
Monday 13th December 1999
The UK Multiple Sclerosis Society today welcomed the announcement
that the Medical Research Council is to fund a clinical trial on
cannabis extract in the treatment of spasticity in MS.
Society chief executive, Peter Cardy, said, "For years we have
pressed for proper medical research to assess the clinical effectiveness
and safety of these substances. We were instrumental, with the Royal
Pharmaceutical Society, in bringing together all the interested parties
and going on to develop the protocols on which this trial will be based.
"Thousands of people with MS suffer from the often very painful
symptoms of spasticity. Anecdotal evidence of the benefit or otherwise
of using cannabis has varied widely. It is clearly an unacceptable state
of affairs when many people suffering from a serious medical condition
feel driven to break the law. The trial will provide us with the
evidence we need to know whether cannabis or cannabinoids are a safe
effective treatment of spasticity in MS"
David Harrison or Adrain Ellis
0171 487 5734
Date: For immediate release, Monday 13
MRC TO FUND FIRST
CLINICAL TRIAL ON EFFECTS OF CANNABIS EXTRACT IN PEOPLE WITH MULTIPLE
The Medical Research Council (MRC) today (Monday
13 December 1999) announced plans to fund the first clinical trial to
attempt to measure the therapeutic effects of cannabis extract in people
with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The MRC has approved a grant of Ј950,000 to Dr
John Zajicek, a Consultant Neurologist at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth
to undertake a three-year study.
MS is a disease of the nervous system and is one
of the most common causes of disability in young people. People with the
condition can have distressing symptoms such as muscle stiffness and
spasms (spasticity), pain, fatigue, difficulty passing urine and tremors.
Some people with MS have claimed that cannabis can help some of these
Dr Zajicek will recruit 660 patients with MS from
across the country who have significant spasticity in some of their leg
muscles. Each patient will be randomly allocated to one of three
treatments in capsule form: extract of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (a
constituent of cannabis) or a placebo (containing only a vegetable oil).
Neither the patients nor their doctors will know which treatment is
being taken until after the study.
Assessments of muscle stiffness and mobility will
be made every few weeks. Side effects will be recorded and assessments
of quality of life and disability will be made.
Dr Zajicek said: "We hope the study will
provide definite scientific evidence about whether or not taking
cannabis is helpful to people with MS."
Patients will be recruited from specialist MS
clinics in hospitals around the country, and any potential participants
should contact their own doctors.
People with MS and their families who want to know
more about the condition can contact the Multiple Sclerosis Society
Helpline on 0808 800 8000. The helpline is open from 3pm until 9pm
Monday to Friday.
For more information or to speak to Dr John
Zajicek please contact the MRC press office on 0171 637 6011.
Notes to Editors
1. The Medical Research Council (MRC) established
in 1913, aims to improve health by promoting research into all areas of
medical and related science. It is funded mainly by the government, but
is independent in its choice of which research to support. About half of
the MRC’s expenditure of around Ј300 million is invested in over 40
of its Institutes and Units, where it employs its own research staff.
The remaining half goes in the form of grant support and training awards
to individuals and teams in universities and medical schools.
2. It is estimated that around 85,000 people in
the UK have multiple sclerosis, the most common neurological disease
affecting young adults in the Western world. The Multiple Sclerosis
Society is the nationwide organisation dedicated to supporting people
with MS, their families and carers, and securing the care they need in
their everyday lives.