Trial of Cannabis Derivatives in Treating MS Spasticity to Open in Canada

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by Joana Carvalho, PhD |

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The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and its partner, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), have invested CA$1.5 million to open a clinical trial that will investigate the potential of two cannabis derivatives — cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — in treating spasticity (muscle stiffness) and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The money, worth about $1.1 million, will support the trial for the next five years, and is part of CIHR’s Integrated Cannabis Research Strategy (ICRS). This initiative, involving several partner institutions, aims to generate strong scientific evidence to support policies and regulations governing the use of cannabis.

Since cannabis was legalized in Canada in 2018, there has been a growing need for clinical studies demonstrating its therapeutic efficacy. This trial, which will be led by Pierre Duquette, MD, with the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), intends to generate data necessary to create evidence-based guidelines regarding the use of cannabis products to treat MS symptoms.

“The MS Society has always emphasized the need for continued investment in research to study the effects of cannabis,” Pamela Valentine, president and CEO, of the MS Society of Canada, said in a press release.

“This trial is an opportunity to ensure there are effective evidence-informed treatment options to support symptom management,” Valentine said.

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study will enroll a select group of MS patients experiencing one or more typical symptoms of the disease. Its planned start date and the number of patients being recruited were not detailed in the release.

During the trial, some participants will be treated with cannabis derivatives (CBD and THC), and others given a placebo for four weeks. Those who respond during the month of treatment will be eligible to participate in a 12-week continuation phase.

The study’s main goal is to assess the effectiveness of CBD and THC at alleviating spasticity. Secondary goals will look at how well they address other MS symptoms, including pain, fatigue, sleep problems, mood, and cognitive issues.

Study investigators will also evaluate the pharmacological properties of both compounds, and explore their effects on brain inflammation.

“We have assembled a team of nine clinicians and researchers with the goal of assessing the benefits and risks, over both the short and long term, of cannabis products used to treat MS symptoms, and to explore the mechanisms involved,” Duquette said.

“This will allow persons with MS who wish to use cannabis derivatives such as THC and CBD, to treat MS symptoms in a proper way,” he added.

The study is titled “Is cannabis a useful adjunct in the treatment of symptoms of persons with multiple sclerosis? A formal trial of CBD and THC for the control of spasticity and other symptoms: assessing the clinical effects and the basic mechanisms.

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