Researchers at the Medical University of Innsbruck have now tested in a randomised controlled trial to what extent the synthetic THC drug nabilone can relieve non-motor symptoms (NMS). The results were published in the renowned journal of the American Neurological Assosiation “Annals of Neurology”.
Approximately two percent of the world’s population over the age of 60 suffers from the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s disease. Those affected suffer from a variety of motor disorders such as muscle tremor at rest, lack of movement, slowed movements and stiff muscles. In addition, the upright posture becomes increasingly unstable. Various non-motor symptoms (NMS) can also occur, such as mood swings, perception and sleep disorders, daytime tiredness, reduced performance, depression and anxiety.
The researchers explain that the burden on the NMS often increases during the course of the disease. There is little data from controlled clinical trials on treatment and the available treatment options are limited.
“The potential therapeutic effect of cannabinoids on motor function and NMS in Parkinson’s disease is an important issue and is often raised by patients in the treatment room,” said Marina Peball, the study’s lead author.
The neurologist and corresponding author of the study, Klaus Seppi, further explained that the study had examined the effect of nabilone “on the controlled treatment of NMS in Parkinson’s disease in a randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled manner in a large number of patients”.
Nabilone is a synthetic analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis. Nabilone has similar pharmacological properties to THC.
Results of the study
In the study, a withdrawal design was used after all patients were adjusted to nabilone. The results said that the NMS load decreased under treatment with nabilone. In particular, anxiety decreased and the quality of sleep improved. In addition, the patients tolerated the therapy well.
“Given the data and possible mechanisms of action, we can say that nabilone seems to improve non-motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” the researchers said.
Thus, the results of the study may contribute to a better understanding of the value of cannabinoids in the treatment of NMS. The results may also serve as a basis for larger controlled trials that might lead to approval.