Is medical cannabis treatment associated with improvements in health-related quality of life? An Australian study suggests it can be.
The retrospective case series study by researchers at the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Victoria involved patients who attended a network of specialist medical clinics (Emerald Clinics) located across Australia.
The 3148 participants were patients who received medical cannabis treatment of various types for any condition/symptom at any point between December 2018 and May 2022. The most common primary diagnoses in the sample population were chronic non-cancer pain, cancer pain, insomnia and anxiety. On average, patients were taking a mean of 6.58 medications a day prior to commencing treatment.
In terms of medical cannabis treatment, mean daily tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) doses were:
- Balanced approach (18.8 mg THC; 18.8 mg CBD)
- CBD-dominant (8.7 mg THC; 97.1 mg CBD)
- THC-dominant (35.9 mg THC; 5.0 mg CBD)
The main outcome measure was health-related quality of life as assessed using the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) questionnaire. This covers eight domains of health, being:
- physical functioning
- physical role limitations
- bodily pain
- general health perceptions
- social functioning
- emotional role limitations
- mental health
The good news:
“After commencing treatment with medical cannabis, patients reported significant improvements relative to baseline on all 8 domains of the SF-36, and these improvements were mostly sustained over time,” states the research. ” After controlling for potential confounders in a regression model, treatment with medical cannabis was associated with an improvement of 6.60 (95% CI, 4.57-8.63) points to 18.31 (95% CI, 15.86-20.77) points in SF-36 scores, depending on the domain (all P < .001).”
But the researchers also note adverse events were common, albeit rarely serious. A total of 2919 such events were reported over the sampling period, with the most common issues including sedation and/or sleepiness, dry mouth, lethargy and/or tiredness and dizziness – plus others. While generally not serious, the number and nature of events highlights the need for caution with prescribing medical cannabis they state.
The study has been published on JAMA Network Open and can be viewed in full here.