Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the active ingredients in cannabis, had no effect on progressive MS according to results reported on 29 May 2012.
The results of CUPID (Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease) were presented today (Tuesday 29 May) at the Association of British Neurologists annual meeting. The study was funded in part by the MS Trust.
This large UK study, lead by Professor Zajicek at Plymouth University, investigated whether tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the active ingredients in cannabis, can slow the increase of disability in people with progressive multiple sclerosis.
CUPID was set up after earlier studies had suggested that cannabis, aside from any effect on symptoms, may have a role to play in protecting the nerves from further deterioration and slow down the progression of MS.
The trial involved 493 people with progressive MS at 27 centres around the UK and has taken eight years to complete. Participants took either THC capsules or placebo for three years. The study tracked progression in MS using a number of indicators including neurologist assessed measures (EDSS - Expanded Disability Status Scale) as well as participant reported measures (MSIS-29 - Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale 29). The MS Trust funded the cost of MRI scans for this study.
Overall, the study found no evidence to support an effect of THC on MS progression. Both neurologist assessed measures and patient reported measures showed no change over the course of the study. However, there was some evidence to suggest a beneficial effect in participants at the lower levels of disability at the start of the study, but further studies looking at larger numbers of people would be needed to confirm this.
One of the main findings of the trial was that the study participants did not deteriorate at the rate that had been expected. This is encouraging news and reflects well on the care now provided by the NHS for people with MS compared with previously. However, it does make it more difficult to identify any positive effects of trial treatment when the aim of treatment is to slow progression.
The MS Trust has been pleased to fund part of the CUPID study and would congratulate the researchers and people with MS on committing their time and energy over a three year period to bring this study to a conclusion. While the outcomes are negative they provide important evidence in the ongoing challenge to find effective treatments for progressive MS
Pam Macfarlane, Chief Executive, MS Trust