Yes, CUPID is on the way to find something new in the field of multiple sclerosis. Do not scratch your head, thinking how CUPID is related to MS! I am not writing about CUPID, the God of erotic love and beauty, instead about CUPID trial - Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease.
First and foremost, I want to mention that possession of cannabis is a criminal offense, although the police are more lenient with those possessing small amounts for their own personal medical use. There have been claims cannabis may have beneficial effects in a variety of medical conditions, including MS, severe nausea and vomiting (for example, during chemotherapy), glaucoma, chronic pain and migraine. The problem is many of these claims are little more than anecdotal evidence - personal reports from people who've tried it, or treated someone with it. Reliable scientific evidence based on properly conduced clinical trials has been sparse.
The CUPID (Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease) study at the
The CUPID trial follows an earlier study -- Cannabinoids and Multiple Sclerosis (CAMS) -- which suggested a link between THC and the slowing of MS. The CAMS trial saw participants take THC for a year -- the CUPID trial will last for longer and aims to assess the effect of THC on progressive MS. It has taken two years to recruit the 493 participants who will each take part in the trial for three years, and in some cases three and a half years. After data cleaning and analysis the results should be available by spring/early summer 2012.
Professor John Zajicek from the
The CUPID trial is funded by the Medical Research Council, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Multiple Sclerosis Trust. Chris Jones, chief executive of the MS Trust, commented: "The MS Trust is delighted to be supporting this study on behalf of people with MS. The ability to halt progression in MS is what we dream of - the Holy Grail for those whose condition deteriorates year on year. This study should give us the definitive answer as to whether cannabinoids will prove to be such an agent."
Dr Laura Bell, research communications officer for the MS Society, said: "People affected by MS are keen to know whether there's any truth in the suggestion that elements of the cannabis plant can help ease the symptoms and slow down progression of the condition. "The MS Society is supportive of safe clinical trials investigating the medicinal properties of cannabis and it's great news that this trial is going ahead. We look forward to the results of this exciting study."
Increase in medicinal cannabinoid trials
In the past two to three years, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of clinical trials investigating medicinal cannabinoids - synthetic drugs based on the active chemicals isolated from cannabis - in MS.
These medicines, such as a delta-9-THC buccal spray, have been tested for the treatment of symptoms such as chronic pain and spasticity, and most of the studies suggest they have a helpful effect, at least for a subgroup of patients.
Risks are as unclear as benefits
Just as the benefits have yet to be proven, so the risks remain unclear. Cannabis undoubtedly has psychoactive effects (this is, after all, why people use it as a recreational drug).
Herbal cannabis contains hundreds of chemicals, which could be having different effects, and it's difficult to know what you're getting and in what dose when you smoke it.
Prescribed cannabinoids may be the best choice
The only legal option if you want to try cannabis as a treatment for MS is to talk to your doctor about medicinal cannabinoids. These contain a synthetic version of THC and are in tablet form. They're legal, easy to take and have a guaranteed dosage.
Sources: ScienceDaily.com and BBC Health -Ask the doctor (Dr Trisha Macnair)