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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Further trials of cannabis medicines
Tests on cannabis's medicinal use are being expanded
Tests on cannabis's medicinal use are being expanded
Trials of cannabis-based medicines are to be extended to see if the drug is effective at reducing pain in a wider range of conditions.

GW Pharmaceuticals, based in Salisbury, Wiltshire, is already looking at whether cannabis-based medicines reduce three types of pain, including general pain associated with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Four new trials will be established to look at how effective the medicines are in treating:-

  • pain in spinal cord injury
  • sleep disrupted by pain in multiple sclerosis (MS)sufferers
  • nerve-damage pain in MS
  • General nerve-damage pain, specifically allodynia, a condition where people feel pain from something which does not normally hurt, such as clothes brushing across skin

The three existing trials look at the medicines' effects on cancer pain and brachial plexus injury - a severe form of nerve-damage pain, as well as general MS pain.

Altogether, around 600 patients from around the UK will be involved in the seven trials of the medicines, which are administered via an under-the-tongue spray

Deeper research

Last October the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said cannabis may be legalised for medicinal use.

We welcome any new research into possible licensed cannabis based medicines

Chris Jones, MS Trust
GW Pharmaceuticals aims to seek regulatory approval from the Medicines Control Agency for its medications in 2003.

A spokesman for GW Pharmaceuticals explained why the company was now focussing on these four new areas of research.

"What we were finding was that the pain in MS was seriously disrupting sleep patterns.

"There were people who hadn't had a decent night's sleep for a decade or more.

"We are also looking at allodynia. In the past, people have been put on antidepressants, which its transpired have some effect, but they have a large number of side-effects too."

In addition to the other main areas of research into spinal cord pain and nerve pain in MS, the company is also carrying out early research into using cannabis-based medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Anecdotal evidence

GW Pharmaceuticals' spokesman added: "We are going deeper and wider into existing areas of research, such as the medicines' effect on MS."

Chris Jones, Chief Executive of the MS Trust welcomed the extension of the company's trials: "Many of the 85,000 people with MS in Britain suffer from symptoms such as muscle stiffness, spasms (spasticity), pain and sleep disturbance.

"For many of these people, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests cannabis has provided significant symptom relief, seemingly without side-effects.

"We therefore welcome any new research into possible licensed cannabis based medicines."

See also:

28 Jan 02 | Health
Cannabis cancer trial failure
24 Oct 01 | Business
Cannabis free-up boosts drug firm
16 Jan 02 | Health
Cannabis medicine trial expanded
05 Jan 99 | Health
Cannabis grown for medical tests
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