A new clinical trial involving medical marijuana is seeing one patient with multiple sclerosis walking with strength she hasn't had in years.
Joanne Fiorito is 61. She's struggled with multiple sclerosis for most of her life. Until recently, she thought the condition, which has forced her into an electric wheelchair, was going to own her.
"Last year, I felt like the wheelchair was pretty close to my ass if I may say so. I felt like, 'Oh she's really gaining on me, I'll be stuck in that wheelchair for the rest of my life.'"
Now things have started to turn around for Fiorito. She has regained her mobility thanks to the "miracle" of medical marijuana.
"At physiotherapy, they time me for six minutes to see how far I can walk. In October I did 89 meters. This week, it was 251 meters. I’m not joking when I say it’s like a miracle."
That miracle is a new Montreal-based clinical trial focusing on the effectiveness of using medical marijuana capsules for managing chronic pain. Last winter, Fiorito's neurologist suggested signing up for the trial. Fiorito says the results were almost immediate.
"I had nothing to lose," Fiorito told Montreal Gazette. "[Cannabis] was like a miracle. Within three days my legs were less stiff, they didn't feel as heavy."
The trial is a joint project between Canadian cannabis heavyweights Tetra Pharma Bio and Montreal's own medical marijuana clinic Santé Cannabis. The success of the trial has caught even the researchers off guard.
"I was surprised at how tolerable it was, at how safe it was," recalled Dr. Antonio Vigano, who is heading up the study. "That's the main concern, when you do these trials, is to make sure the product is safe."Dr. Vigano says that in the pool of 70 participants only one had experienced any adverse effects.
Erin Prosk - Co-Founder of Santé Cannabis - says she hopes the favorable results of the trials will help improve Canada's medical marijuana program and expand the list of available medications for patients.
"Some people think that with legalization, patients can just go to the store and buy cannabis. But the people who use medical cannabis need a specific pharmaceutical-grade product to treat specific symptoms."
While the trial is not yet completed and these are only preliminary findings, it's hard to argue with the results that participants like Fiorito have seen. Still, the Canadian Medical Association continues to call for the end of Canada's medical marijuana program, so it's uncertain if Prosk will see her wish of a more comprehensive medical marijuana system in Canada come true.