In a rare setback involving the efficacy of medical marijuana, the preliminary results of a three-year clinical trial in the United Kingdom that administered THC pills to multiple sclerosis patients indicates cannabinoid consumption does not slow down the progression of the debilitating disease.

The study, involving 500 MS patients, costing a reported eight million pounds (almost 16.5 million U.S. dollars) and conducted by the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth (a city in South West England), was dubbed CUPID, an acronym for Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease.

Chief researcher Professor John Zajicek told BBC News he was  “disappointed” that the pills did not produce any evidence of the desired effect of slowing down the course of MS. Though it was not the focus of the study, it should be noted that trial patients did report that the THC medication helped treat the symptoms of MS, such as easing pain, muscle stiffness and reducing spasms.

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MS was first described in 1868 and to this date there is no known cure. Besides the painful existence often suffered by MS patients, it also reduces life expectancy by five to ten years. As Prof Zajicek noted, MS progression seems to be associated with the death of nerve cells and certain cannabinoids have been shown to be neuroprotective.

Unfortunately, determining whether cannabis can ultimately slow down MS will take more research – to the tune of at least five million British pounds, and additional financing has yet to be obtained.