12:00 - 18 April 2003
Plymouth Evening Herald
Medical experts in Plymouth are using cannabis in trials to combat the shaking caused by the treatment of Parkinson's Disease. Patients are being recruited by the Peninsula Medical School to take capsules containing cannabis oil in the first long-term trial of its kind.
If the trial is successful, it could lead to experts calling on doctors to prescribe cannabinoids when treating Parkinson's.
The disease of the nervous system, which occurs in late middle age, causes paralysis in the muscles and involuntary abnormal movements.
The treatment of the disease has been revolutionised by the use of levadopa.
But after a few years, for reasons unknown to the experts, the drug causes uncontrollable shaking, called dyskinesia.
The shaking is itself hard to treat with further drugs.
Now, the Clinical Trials Unit at the school is carrying out a new study exploring the impact of the extract of cannabis, Cannador, on those involuntary movements.
Cannabis is thought to dull the receptors in the area of the brain which produces the movements. Previous studies have shown that compounds acting as cannabis receptors reduce dyskinesia.
Patients on the trial will also receive the euphoria associated with the drug.
Dr Camille Carroll, a neurology registrar at Derriford Hospital, is heading up the trial.
She said: "Dyskinesia is a severe and disabling side-effect resulting from the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
"No previous long-term trial into the effect of cannabis has been undertaken, but I am hopeful that we will see positive effects reducing the involuntary movements suffered by patients on anti-Parkinson's disease drugs."
24 patients will be recruited across Devon and Cornwall to take part in the study.
The pilot study will start in early May, the main trial running from June to September.
During the trial, the effect of cannabis oil on the involuntary abnormal movements experienced by patients will be compared with a placebo - an inactive neutral drug.
Patients in trials taking placebos have often experienced similar benefits to those taking the real drugs. People who have taken placebos for cannabis have still managed to experience a "high", for example.
If cannabis oil is found to be effective a case will be made for patients to be prescribed cannabinoids to help combat the side-effects of drugs given to patients with Parkinson's disease in the future.
This study follows the recent completion of a study carried out at the Peninsula Medical School which investigated the effect of cannabinoids on multiple sclerosis, another nervous disease, which is due to report in July.
If you would more information about the study, you can telephone the trial information line on 0800 015 3430.
The medical school, opened in September, wants to establish itself as
a research institution.
© Copyright 2003, Plymouth Evening Herald