MS cannabis trial at Ipswich Hospital
A CONSULTANT at Ipswich Hospital is involved in groundbreaking new trials to see if cannabis really does relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.Trials are being conducted nationally by the Medical Research Council into the use of cannabis as a prescribed drug.
By JESSICA NICHOLLS
A CONSULTANT at Ipswich Hospital is involved in groundbreaking new trials to see if cannabis really does relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
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Trials are being conducted nationally by the Medical Research Council into the use of cannabis as a prescribed drug.
Sufferers of the disease have been campaigning for several years for the trials and some have even been taken to court for using the drug which they claim relieves the debilitating symptoms they suffer.
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But MS sufferer, Stephen Williams, of St Peters Road, Stowmarket, treated the news with some caution. He was diagnosed 16 years ago and said during that time his hopes had been raised too often only to be dashed when the treatment proved too expensive.
The 52-year-old said: "The frustrating thing is being told that there is a major breakthrough but it has to go through five years of trials.
"So you sit and wait patiently and then you find you can't have it after all because it is too expensive."
Mr Williams has been closely following tests of cannabis and spoke out in the Evening Star in September for the cannabis law to be reformed so he could use it to relieve the pain wracking his body.
He said: "I have been checking the website of a pharmaceutical company (which is running trials) and they said that in most incidences they have had good results.
"Although there are still a lot of people that it does not help, it is helping more than they thought.
"When I was first diagnosed in 1986 the doctors told me not to worry and that there would be a cure by the end of the century – that has been and gone.
"I am wary of it but now it is in Ipswich I will ask my GP if I can get involved."
Bob Wake from Stradbroke, near Eye, was diagnosed with MS 14 years ago. At that time he said he never believed medical research would advance this far.
He said: "I never thought I would see this.
"We always hoped that it would and various things have come up during that time.
"When I was diagnosed I did not think there would be anything for me and cannabis may not be the one but at least we can try."
Mr Wake, 67, is involved in the East Anglian Branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and often gives talks to both sufferers and non-sufferers.
He said: "From what I know, cannabis does not seem to be doing much harm.
"If you have MS you are willing to have a go at absolutely anything – you don't know when you wake up each morning which part of you is never going to work again.
"When I have been to meetings and talked to people they have said that as long as there would not be any terrible side effects they would try anything – even if there was only a one in a thousand chance it would work.
"No two patients are the same and MS affects random sections of the brain.
"One person could be helped in a different way to another."
Dr Stephen Wroe is a consultant neurologist at Ipswich Hospital and he has been involved in the trials.
He was unavailable to comment today but it is believed that around 23 patients are actually taking part.
If the trials are successful the treatment could be in place as early as 2004.
n Dr Wroe's trials will be featured on Anglia TV's Cover Story programme on Friday at 10.50pm.