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Irish Health Research Board Finds MS Benefits From Marijuana

Posted by Triple Naturals I On Feb 27, 2024
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Medicinal cannabis ‘significantly benefits’ treatment of nerve pain caused by MS or diabetes.

Big news here in Ireland in the past weeks. The Health Research Board (HRC) released a review of the use of medical cannabis (marijuana) for symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). HRC is the lead funding agency for health research in Ireland. It oversees a €45 million investment in health research activity each year. It was established in 1986.

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While the review found no conclusive evidence of effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in treating anxiety or pain in cancer, the benefits in MS seemed to “significantly benefit the treatment of nerve pain underlying conditions such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes.”

Here in Ireland, there are already prescribing guidelines for doctors on the use of medicinal cannabis for spasticity in multiple sclerosis. The acknowledgment of the substance for pain relief could be of benefit to many of the estimated 8,000 people in the country (out of just over five million residents) diagnosed with the disease.

Incremental Progress

While many of our readers will be accustomed to access to medicinal cannabis in their home states and countries, it was only in 2019 that we had it here, with the establishment of Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP). MCAP allows for a very limited access to prescribed cannabis-based treatment for a small number of conditions, where the patient has not responded to standard treatments.

This marks one of the first MCAP extensions of symptoms for which consultants (specialist physicians) can prescribe medicinal cannabis. Until now the only symptoms and conditions for which the substance could be prescribed in Ireland were spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.

While well behind this topic curve in the opinion of many with MS — this writer included — Ireland is, at least, making progress beyond its former zero-tolerance of cannabis in the healthcare conversation.


MS Ireland Weighs In

In 2023 I hosted an hourlong webcast on the topic. Even then it was fairly new territory for Multiple Sclerosis Ireland to allow such a discussion on their platform. Also online is MS Ireland's position paper on the subject.

To get another perspective on cannabis, you can read the National MS Society's Medical Marijuana (Cannabis) FAQs on the situation in the United States, where laws on medical cannabis vary from state to state.

HRC on Cannabis Side Effects

The HRC review even softened the perception of the safety and potential side effects of the use of medicinal cannabis, stating that “although serious side effects do not appear to be common, there is some evidence of side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, sedation, and headache.”

The report goes on to say, “Mixed evidence was found, however, on the likelihood of other adverse events such as drowsiness, nausea, and any psychiatric disorder adverse events.”

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In the release statement, Mairéad O’Driscoll, HRB's chief executive, stated that it was essential that healthcare policy is informed by the latest evidence, “including in areas where existing research is not sufficiently developed to draw robust conclusions.”

Still Jumping Through Hoops

This means that there will be other hoops through which patients and their doctors will have to jump in order to obtain substances on which researchers are forming consensus opinions in the positive.

The thing is, many of us who need such medications just can’t jump anymore.

Wishing you and your family the best of health.

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