$1.5M Earmarked for MS Research on Cannabis in Canada

Alberto Molano, PhD avatar

by Alberto Molano, PhD |

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In partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the MS Society of Canada has announced $1.5 million to fund research over five years on the effects of cannabis on multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms and disease progression.

Studies have shown that for each 10-degree increase in latitude, patients newly diagnosed with MS increase by 30% for women, and 50% for men. People living in northern regions also become ill earlier. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with 11 Canadians diagnosed with MS every day.

Increasing evidence suggests that cannabis and cannabinoid-based medicines may have some therapeutic effects on MS. Montel Williams, the former TV talk show host who has MS, is perhaps one of the staunchest defenders of the beneficial effects of cannabis.

However, some of this evidence is anecdotal or incomplete, and there are safety issues concerning the medical use of cannabis. In addition, the illegal status of cannabis in many countries has limited scientists from gathering the required evidenced-based data to prove or disprove many of these claims.

Recreational marijuana became legal in Canada in October 2018, facilitating the funding of research and increasing the need to understand the behavioral, social, ethical, and economic implications of legalization based on scientific evidence.

Evidence-based research is also required to inform policy, therapeutic practice, prevention efforts, and the risks of cannabis use.

The $1.5-million investment in cannabis research is part of an Integrated Cannabis Research Strategy involving the Institute of Cancer Research, Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis, and the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction in partnership with the Arthritis Society, Canadian Cancer Society, MS Society of Canada, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

“The MS Society is pleased to invest in this first-of-its-kind funding opportunity in Canadian MS research,” Pamela Valentine, PhD, president and CEO of the MS Society of Canada, said in a press release.

“As an organization, we have a mandate to provide information that is rooted in evidence. Cannabis is still a relatively unknown substance from the perspective of evidence-based research, so investing in research on cannabis use is an important first step for determining its applicability and efficacy towards managing MS,” Valentine added.

Projects involving basic science, clinical applications, health services, and policy research will be considered. The deadline for letters of intent is May 15, 2019. More information is available at www.researchnet.ca.

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