A study evaluating short and long-term effects of the use of plant-based medical cannabis by pain patients found it to be effective.
The study was carried out with 751 chronic pain patients starting medical cannabis treatment between 2015 and 2019. Medical cannabis was associated with improvements in pain severity and interference at the one month point – and this continued over the 12 months patients participated in the investigation, with patients reporting progress monthly.
Furthermore, there were significant reductions in oral morphine equivalent doses in patients who reported opioid medication use at baseline.
The researchers concluded the findings of the study added to existing evidence “supporting plant-based medical cannabis as a safe and effective treatment option and potential opioid medication substitute or augmentation therapy for the management of symptoms and quality of life in chronic pain patients.”
The study was published in the journal Pain Medicine and an abstract can be viewed here.
Commenting on the findings, the USA’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ (NORML’s) Deputy Director Paul Armentano stated:
“These outcomes add to the growing body of literature supportive of the therapeutic use of cannabis as an opioid-sparing analgesic agent.”
Closer to home, Australia company Zelira Therapeutics (ASX:ZLD – previously Zelda Therapeutics) is currently involved in an opioid reduction study that is being carried out in collaboration with St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne. The study is assessing the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis to reduce opioid dependence in pain patients. The company has reported no serious adverse events to date and Zelira is due to provide a final report of this study this month – so it shouldn’t be long before we see some results.
More recently the company announced it was forming a new partnership for a chronic pain study in retired athletes.
Dependence on and abuse of prescription opioids has been a scourge in many countries, including Australia. According to an Australian Government report from 2018, in 2016, pharmaceutical opioids were involved in more opioid deaths and poisoning hospitalisations than heroin. Around 3.1 million Australians were dispensed opioid prescriptions in 2016-17.