In a world-first trial, scientists at the University of Sydney will be investigating if cannabidiol (CBD) is safe and effective in reducing neuropathic pain in people with spinal cord injury.
Persistent neuropathic pain is a common feature of spinal cord injury, characterised by a stabbing, burning or numbing sensation. Depending on its severity, it may be the most debilitating aspect of spinal cord injury. There are limited treatment options available, and what exists can be accompanied by serious side effects.
There is some anecdotal evidence suggesting cannabis can be benefit in managing this type of pain, but scientific research is lacking – which makes it challenging for doctors to advise patients on dosage.
The new research will focus on the cannabinoid CBD, which is non-intoxicating, and is being supported by $1.7 million in funding from NSW Health. The research partners involved are Neuroscience Research Australia, the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, School of Medical Sciences and Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics.
As part of the investigation, a trial will see participants receive both CBD and a placebo in random order over two six-week periods. Feedback from patients will be recorded and their sleep patterns monitored with an wrist-worn device. Additionally, participants will undergo a brain scan, other questionnaires, and blood collection before and after each treatment period.
“If effective, this trial will provide gold-standard evidence to support the use of CBD for patients with neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury,” said the Lambert Initiative’s and study’s co-investigator Professor Iain McGregor. “It can also help to inform and ultimately change policy surrounding the prescription of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of neuropathic pain and improve patient access.”
The trial will be run at Neuroscience Research Australia’s facility in Randwick, Sydney. Diagnosed spinal cord injury patients with persistent neuropathic pain interested getting involved in the project – named the SCAN study – can complete a questionnaire here, call 0439 804 551 or email email@example.com. It should be noted prospective participants must be over the age of 18 years and be willing to travel to Sydney city on four occasions.