British Medical Journal: “Netherlands to Run Trials of Marijuana in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis”

The Dutch government has announced a small scale cross over trial into the effect of three sorts of medical marijuana, plus a placebo, on 16 patients with multiple sclerosis.

Two foundations in Rotterdam, the Institute for Medical Marijuana and Maripharm, have been contracted by the government to produce the drug to a standard quality and provide metal pipes for inhalation.

A Bureau for Medical Cannabis, set up by the ministry and the Amsterdam’s Free University medical centre, will run the year’s trial.

The bureau also intends to make medicinal cannabis available through pharmacists on prescription by spring 2003. The Dutch cabinet recently agreed to change the law to permit this.

Four trials of cannabis are taking place in the United Kingdom. The cannabis in multiple sclerosis (CAMS) study, which is sponsored by the Medical Research Council, started at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, last year and aims to take in 660 participants in 40 centres.

Three smaller phase II trials – in Guernsey, Oxford, and Norfolk – have been under way since autumn 2000, examining a sublingual spray developed from plants grown by G W Pharmaceuticals in Kent. The researchers expect to extend these trials to 2000 patients over two years and to enroll not only people with multiple sclerosis but also patients with various chronic pain syndromes, such as neuralgia and lower back pain.