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Cannabis soothes the pain of arthritis

Cannabis-based drugs might be used to treat arthritis after a study showed they could relieve its pain.

Cannabis has already been shown to have a role in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Other studies suggest it may help treat gut disorders such as Crohn's disease.

The latest study - the first to examine its effect in rheumatoid arthritis - found it significantly reduced pain and suppressed the disease.

Researchers followed up a survey of 1000 people who had obtained the drug. About 15 per cent said they had done so to relieve the condition.

Doctors at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath gave the cannabis-based medicine, Sativex, to 31 randomly selected patients with rheumatoid arthritis and compared them with controls. Those given the active drug had statistically significant improvements in pain, quality of sleep and inflammation. The findings are published online in the Rheumatology Journal.

Concern about the intoxicating effects of cannabis have deterred researchers from exploring its potential as a medicinal treatment. A Sativex spokesman said the medicinal effect was inseparable from its intoxicating effect.