Researchers at Quellenhof Rehabilitation Center in Germany followed a group of 276 patients with MS-related muscle spasticity that failed to respond to traditional treatments, and who began taking a cannabis-based medicine called Sativex.
“Real-life data confirm nabiximols (Sativex) as an effective and well-tolerated treatment option for resistant multiple sclerosis spasticity in clinical practice,” wrote Dr. Peter Flachenecker, lead author of the study.
The findings were published last week in European Neurology.
After the first month of treatment, 75% of patients showed improvements in symptom scores. More than half of patients stuck with the treatment after 3 months, and showed an average reduction in symptom scores of 25% from baseline.
Sativex is a pharmaceutical-grade cannabis extract, containing an equal ratio of the plant’s main active compounds, THC and CBD.
The drug is currently approved in 24 countries for the treatment of multiple sclerosis spasticity, but has yet to be approved in the U.S. On the other hand, medical marijuana is commonly used by MS patients in states where it is legal.
While cannabis and cannabis-based treatments are most recognized for managing symptoms of MS, there is also some evidence that they can slow progression of the disease.
A 2003 study conducted by British scientists using animal models concluded: “in addition to symptom management, cannabis may also slow the neurodegenerative processes that ultimately lead to chronic disability in multiple sclerosis and probably other diseases.”
A 2013 study by Israeli scientists came to a similar conclusion.
However, a recent clinical trial involving dronabinol (Marinol), a pill containing THC, found no significant effect on disease progression.