More MS news articles for June 2002

Funding shortage hits cannabis trials

Saturday, 22 June, 2002

Plans for extended clinical trials of cannabis in Plymouth which it was hoped would help sufferers of multiple sclerosis have been scrapped.

An application to the Multiple Sclerosis Society for a £150,00 of funding has been turned down.

The trials involve the use of cannabis to control the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. They are led by Dr John Zajicek, a consultant at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

Six hundred and sixty people including 99 from the Plymouth area are taking part. Patients can only stay on the programme for 12 months.

Dr Zajicek applied to the MS Society to pay for them to remain on the treatment until the trials finish at the end of this year.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society told the BBC that the application went through their usual process of rigorous scrutiny but they were unhappy with certain elements.

They have now asked that it be resubmitted but that could mean a delay of several months.

Researchers say it would be pointless to resubmit for funding because it would take too long and they would have missed a window of opportunity.

"I think they've taken a very narrow minded view, I don't really think they have taken the patients interests on board," said Dr Zajicek

"Only today I've been looking at some very angry letters from patients who are very disappointed that they will have to come off treatment at the end of the year."

He added: "Obviously I don't know what they've been taking because it is a blind study but I assume they are taking something that is helping them."

The original trials, costing nearly £1m, have been funded by the Medical Research Council. They are due finish in December.

Each day is a struggle for Tony Watters who lives near Derriford. He suffers from MS and has to deal with a range of symptoms.

He has difficulty controlling his limbs, has muscles spasms and tires very easily.

Tony hasn't taken part in the trials. However, he says those who have will be devastated if they have to stop.

"I think it is totally unfair," said Tony. "Psychologically it will be a terrible blow because to be told sorry you cannot receive this treatment anymore will be devastating."

An estimated 10,000 people use cannabis for medical reasons but because the drug is illegal they are putting themselves at risk of prosecution.