(HealthDay News) – Cannabis extract (CE) is effective at treating muscle stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study published online July 12 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

John Peter Zajicek, PhD, from the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom, and colleagues randomized patients with stable MS to receive oral CE (144 patients) or placebo (135 patients). This Phase 3 trial consisted of a screening period; a two-week dose titration phase, from 5mg daily to a maximum of 25mg of tetrahydrocannabinol; and a 10-week maintenance phase.

The researchers found that, after 12 weeks, the rate of relief from muscle stiffness was almost twice as high with CE than with placebo (29.4% vs. 15.7%; odds ratio, 2.26). After four and eight weeks, the results were similar for muscle stiffness and also for all further category rating scales of body pain, spasms, and sleep quality.

“Our findings suggest that standardized CE can be clinically useful in treating the highly complex phenomenon of spasticity in MS,” the authors write. “Effective pain relief is also achieved by CE, especially in patients with a high baseline pain score.”

The study was partially funded by Weleda. Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry; one author is a named inventor on two patents regarding cannabinoid use in MS.

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