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Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2005 May;4(3):443-56.

The safety of cannabinoids for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

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  • Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. paul.smith@stonebow.otago.ac.nz


The evidence for the therapeutic efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) is increasing but is not as yet convincing. Although several trials have reported no significant effect, the majority of the evidence which supports a beneficial effect on spasticity and pain is based on subjective measurements in trials where unblinding was likely to be a problem. The available clinical trial data suggest that the adverse side effects associated with using cannabis-based medicinal extracts (CBMEs) are generally mild, such as dry mouth, dizziness, somnolence, nausea and intoxication, and in no case did toxicity develop. However, most of these trials were run over a period of months and it is possible that other adverse side effects, not seen in these short-term studies, could develop with long-term use. Despite the evidence that cannabinoids can disrupt cognitive function and promote depression, on the basis of current data, such adverse effects seem unlikely to be associated with the use of CBMEs. Likewise, there is no evidence to suggest that their effects on balance and motor control, or immune function, may be clinically significant. There is, however, reason to be concerned about the use of therapeutic cannabinoids by people predisposed to psychosis and by pregnant women, given the increasing evidence of their adverse effects on the fetus. In conclusion, given the modest therapeutic effects of cannabinoids demonstrated so far, and the risk of long-term adverse side effects, there is reason to be cautious about their use in the treatment of MS.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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