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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
MS patients sign for cannabis trials
Cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of some illnesses
Two hundred people have signed up for the first national study into the effects of cannabis on multiple sclerosis.

The research will investigate whether cannabis and related chemicals help to reduce muscle stiffness and improve mobility in multiple sclerosis patients.

Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system.

Initially it causes loss of balance, reduced vision and bouts of localised paralysis.

Eventually, patients may become totally paralysed and wheelchair-bound.

The 1.2 million research, funded by the Medical Research Council, is being co-ordinated between the Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Plymouth's Postgraduate Medical School.

Helpful

Dr John Zajicek, who is leading the project, said: "Many patients with MS and their doctors believe that cannabis is helpful in treating some of its symptoms.

"This trial is recruiting enough patients to prove scientifically whether cannabis is indeed helpful, as we believe."

In January the first recruits were signed up in Plymouth and from June the trial was extended nationwide.

In total 660 people are needed for the three-year programme, which will involve 38 hospitals across Britain.

Patients are accepted onto the study for only one year and are randomly given one of three treatments.

Some are given cannabis oil, others a constituent of cannabis called tetrahydrocannabinol, and the remainder receive placebo capsules.

Every few weeks, those taking part in the trial are assessed for muscle stiffness and mobility and are also asked to take part in a postal survey about their disability and quality of life.

Neither the patients nor the doctor will know which form of treatment each is being given until after the study.

The results are expected by summer 2003.

See also:

31 May 01 | UK
'Pain drove me to pot'
02 Mar 00 | Health
Cannabis 'helps MS sufferers'
05 Jan 99 | Health
Cannabis grown for medical tests
04 Dec 98 | Medical notes
Cannabis: The debate
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