Cannabis constituent has no effect on MS progression, study shows

July 23, 2013

The first large non-commercial clinical study to investigate whether the main active constituent of cannabis (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) is effective in slowing the course of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), shows that there is no evidence to suggest this; although benefits were noted for those at the lower end of the disability scale.

The study is published in The Lancet Neurology.

The CUPID (Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease) study was carried out by researchers from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. The study was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Multiple Sclerosis Trust, and managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) on behalf of the MRC-NIHR partnership.

CUPID enrolled nearly 500 people with MS from 27 centres around the UK, and has taken eight years to complete. People with progressive MS were randomised to receive either THC capsules or identical placebo capsules for three years, and were carefully followed to see how their MS changed over this period. The two main outcomes of the trial were a disability scale administered by (the Expanded Disability Status Scale), and a patient report scale of the impact of MS on people with the condition (the Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale 29).

Overall the study found no evidence to support an effect of THC on MS progression in either of the main outcomes. However, there was some evidence to suggest a beneficial effect in participants who were at the lower end of the disability scale at the time of enrolment but, as the benefit was only found in a small group of people rather than the whole population, further studies will be needed to assess the robustness of this finding.

One of the other findings of the trial was that MS in the study population as a whole progressed slowly, more slowly than expected. This makes it more challenging to find a treatment effect when the aim of the treatment is to slow progression.

As well as evaluating the potential neuroprotective effects and safety of THC over the long-term, one of the aims of the CUPID study was to improve the way that clinical trial research is done, by exploring newer methods of measuring MS and using the latest statistical methods to make the most of every piece of information collected. This analysis continued for several months and has provided important information about conducting further large scale clinical trials in MS.

Professor John Zajicek, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said: "To put this study into context: current treatments for MS are limited, either being targeted at the immune system in the early stages of the disease or aimed at easing specific symptoms such as muscle spasms, fatigue or bladder problems. At present there is no treatment available to slow MS when it becomes progressive. Progression of MS is thought to be due to death of nerve cells, and researchers around the world are desperately searching for treatments that may be 'neuroprotective'. Laboratory experiments have suggested that certain cannabis derivatives may be neuroprotective."

He added: "Overall our research has not supported laboratory based findings and shown that, although there is a suggestion of benefit to those at the lower end of the disability scale when they joined CUPID, there is little evidence to suggest that THC has a long term impact on the slowing of progressive MS."

Explore further: Active ingredient of cannabis has no effect on the progression of multiple sclerosis

Related Stories

Study looks at effects of cannabis on MS progression

May 30, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- The first large non-commercial study to investigate whether the main active constituent of cannabis (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) is effective in slowing the course of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) ...

Recommended for you

Rat brain atlas provides MR images for stereotaxic surgery

October 21, 2016

Boris Odintsov, senior research scientist at the Biomedical Imaging Center at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and Thomas Brozoski, research professor ...

ALS study reveals role of RNA-binding proteins

October 20, 2016

Although only 10 percent of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases are hereditary, a significant number of them are caused by mutations that affect proteins that bind RNA, a type of genetic material. University of California ...

Imaging technique maps serotonin activity in living brains

October 20, 2016

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that's partly responsible for feelings of happiness and for mood regulation in humans. This makes it a common target for antidepressants, which block serotonin from being reabsorbed by neurons ...

Overcoming egocentricity increases self-control

October 19, 2016

Neurobiological models of self-control usually focus on brain mechanisms involved in impulse control and emotion regulation. Recent research at the University of Zurich shows that the mechanism for overcoming egocentricity ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.3 / 5 (3) Jul 23, 2013
An important note here is that nature intended us to use ALL of the Cannabis plant, not just specifically / individually THC, as it all works together. What this "study" has confirmed is that THC itself may not be effective in treating some MS sufferers, but rather natures full health path should be adhered to and the plant be used in its unprocessed entirety, rather than just some synthetic mock-up of the real thing that could be commercialised into a profit turning "magic pill".
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2013
Stupid, stupid, stupid rubbish propaganda study. The cannabis plant has about 525 compounds within it. About 80 of those compounds are cannabinoids, and other important substances are terpinoids. This stupid study isolated a lousy SINGLE compound (THC) from the entire whole plant and used ONLY that compound for MS treatment. Of course it failed to show significant results!! They should have used the WHOLE plant, which would include THC, CBD, THCV, CBC, CBG, CBDV, and numerous other compounds that WORK TOGETHER like a symphony to heal you. What a crafty and worthless time-killing 8-year delay. Bravo, big pharma in shoring up your worthless junk science smokescreen. Shame on you!
1 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2013
The FDA will say there's no working treatments for anything, so they can provide some ineffective placebo drugs that, at best, treat one of the symptoms.
Fabio P_
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2013
^ Are you guys really this stupid? There is no propaganda and no conspiracy here. There is plenty of on-going research on the medical potential of cannabis as more than an analgesic. The researchers involved in this study decided to attempt to replicate laboratory findings on the effects of THC in a clinical setting, and reported that benefits *were* observed, albeit in a minority group in the experimental sample, which means more research is needed. What the hell more do you want? Do you have any idea how hard it is to run a clinical study on hundreds of participants? It's easy to indulge in confirmation bias while typing out bold comments on the internet. Less so when you actually have to get out there and do proper science. You know, the science that actually yields objective data, rather than whatever conclusion you really really would like it to. You accuse scientists of propaganda, yet propaganda is precisely all I've ever seen any regular cannabis user engage in.
1 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2013
"@Fabio P You know, the science that actually yields objective data, rather than whatever conclusion you really really would like it to. You accuse scientists of propaganda, yet propaganda is precisely all I've ever seen any regular cannabis user engage in. "

First there is no such thing as " objective data." That was a con used by a robber baron to sell papers in the USA. Second examining one variable at a time will never lead you to understanding the symphony. Latest understanding of QM proves that systems gain holistic behavior that is irreducible to individual particles. Reductionism is dead. You're on the wrong paradigm

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.