Long-term use of a cannabis-based medicine in the treatment of spasticity and other symptoms in multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler. 2006 Oct;12(5):639-45. doi: 10.1177/1352458505070618.


The object of this study was to monitor the safety and efficacy of long-term use of an oromucosal cannabis-based medicine (CBM) in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). A total of 137 MS patients with symptoms not controlled satisfactorily using standard drugs entered this open-label trial following a 10-week, placebo-controlled study. Patients were assessed every eight weeks using visual analogue scales and diary scores of main symptoms, and were followed for an average of 434 days (range: 21 -814). A total of 58 patients (42.3%) withdrew due to lack of efficacy (24); adverse events (17); withdrew consent (6); lost to follow-up (3); and other (8). Patients reported 292 unwanted effects, of which 251 (86%) were mild to moderate, including oral pain (28), dizziness (20), diarrhoea (17), nausea (15) and oromucosal disorder (12). Three patients had five 'serious adverse events' between them--two seizures, one fall, one aspiration pneumonia, one gastroenteritis. Four patients had first-ever seizures. The improvements recorded and dosage taken in the acute study remained stable. Planned, sudden interruption of CBM for two weeks in 25 patients (of 62 approached) did not cause a consistent withdrawal syndrome, although 11 (46%) patients reported at least one of--tiredness, interrupted sleep, hot and cold flushes, mood alteration, reduced appetite, emotional lability, intoxication or vivid dreams. Twenty-two (88%) patients re-started CBM treatment. We conclude that long-term use of an oromucosal CBM (Sativex) maintains its effect in those patients who perceive initial benefit. The precise nature and rate of risks with long-term use, especially epilepsy, will require larger and longer-term studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids / administration & dosage*
  • Cannabinoids / adverse effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Muscle Spasticity / drug therapy*
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Preparations / adverse effects
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics
  • Cannabinoids
  • Plant Preparations