Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease, which means it affects your nerves. It’s also an autoimmune disease. This means your body’s defenses against disease malfunction and start attacking your own cells.
With MS, your immune system attacks your body’s myelin, which is a protective substance that covers your nerves. The unprotected nerves are damaged and can’t function as they would with healthy myelin. The damage to the nerves produces a wide range of symptoms that vary in severity.
Multiple sclerosis is also a chronic condition, which means it’s long-lasting and there’s no cure for it. That said, it’s important to know that for the vast majority of people who have MS, the disease is not fatal. Most of the 2 million people worldwide with MS have a standard life expectancy. A rare few may have complications so severe that their life is shortened.
Although MS is a lifelong condition, many of its symptoms can be managed and controlled with medications and lifestyle adjustments.
A new double-blind study has been published in the prestigious International Journal of Neuroscience showing the effects of a newly developed drug, Sativex®, is beneficial as an add-on therapy in antispasticity treatment for patients with moderate to severe multiple sclerosis (MS) spasticity.
This was the stated aim of the study –
To evaluate the efficacy of tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]:cannabidiol [CBD] oromucosal spray (Sativex®) as add-on therapy to optimized standard antispasticity treatment in patients with moderate to severe multiple sclerosis (MS) spasticity.
The study was done using these methods:
Sativex as Add-on therapy Vs. further optimized first-line ANTispastics (SAVANT) was a two-phase trial. In Phase A, eligible patients received add-on THC:CBD spray for 4 weeks to identify initial responders (≥ 20% improvement from baseline in spasticity 0-10 numerical rating scale [NRS] score). Following washout, eligible initial responders were randomised to receive THC:CBD spray or placebo for 12 weeks (double-blinded, Phase B). Optimization of underlying antispasticity medications was permitted in both groups across all study periods.
And this is how the study summarized the results:
Of 191 patients who entered Phase A, 106 were randomised in Phase B to receive add-on THC:CBD spray (n = 53) or placebo (n = 53). The proportion of clinically-relevant responders after 12 weeks (≥ 30% NRS improvement; primary efficacy endpoint) was significantly greater with THC:CBD spray than placebo (77.4 vs 32.1%; P < 0.0001). Compared with placebo, THC:CBD spray also significantly improved key secondary endpoints: changes in mean spasticity NRS (P < 0.0001), mean pain NRS (P = 0.0013), and mean modified Ashworth’s scale (P = 0.0007) scores from Phase B baseline to week 12. Adverse events, when present, were mild/moderate and without new safety concerns.
So, basically, cannabis used as an add-on therapy led to more than double the number of MS patients who responded in a positive manner to treatment and significantly reduced spasticity by the second week of treatment. It also improved the measures which are associated with spasticity including a reduction in pain and less sleep disruption.
Because cannabis was used as an add-on therapy (ethical concerns mandate this requirement), it remains unclear if cannabis alone could help to alleviate these symptoms, but in either case, this study strongly supports the clinical integration of cannabis-based treatment add-ons for symptoms of MS.