A new campaign called “End our pain” is asking people to sign a petition calling on the U.K. to allow all patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) there to have access to medical cannabis as a treatment for MS symptoms, in keeping with countries such as Canada and Germany, and a number of U.S. states.
MS is an immune-mediated disease of the central nervous system characterized by destruction of the myelin layer within nerve cells, leading to a wide range of neurological symptoms impairing patients’ physical and cognitive capabilities. Cannabis use in MS is still controversial, with some MS patients reporting cannabis helps with their muscle stiffness (spasticity) and pain symptoms.
Among the medical community, however, cannabis use is often associated with a risk for side effects. A study titled “Systematic review: efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected neurologic disorders: report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology,” published in the journal Neurology, reviewed reported effects of medical marijuana (from 1948 to November 2013) in addressing symptoms of MS and other diseases, including epilepsy and movement disorders. The authors found that oral cannabis extract is effective in managing central pain and painful spasms in MS patients, but its use increased the risk for serious psychological effects, affecting in total 1 percent of the analyzed population.
A licensed cannabis-based drug called Sativex is prescribed to MS patients to help with muscle spasticity symptoms, and was approved for use in Wales but not in England and Scotland, which rejected it. The “End our pain” campaign is fighting for U.K.-licensed medicinal cannabis as a therapy for pain relief for all eligible MS patients.
“The MS Trust does not endorse or condone the use of illegal cannabis,” Amy Bowen, director of Service Development at the U.K. MS Trust, said in a press release. “We do recognize how difficult MS pain and muscle spasticity can be. We want to ensure that everyone with MS is able to see an MS specialist team who can advise them on the medicines, therapies and self-care strategies to help improve these difficult and burdensome symptoms. We also recognize that people with MS will make their personal health and lifestyle choices, but this should never be because they were not able to access the specialist care they need.”