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A quarter of Australian IBD patients use medical cannabis – study



More than a quarter of IBD patients in Australia say they have used medical cannabis to ease their symptoms, according to a study.

Research conducted by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney, reveals that a quarter of Australians with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have used cannabis – mostly from illicit sources – to manage their condition.

The first nationwide survey – and largest ever on medicinal cannabis use in IBD patients – showed that 25.3 percent of the 838 respondents were using, or had previously used, medicinal cannabis.

Results from the anonymous survey, published in the journal Crohn’s & Colitis earlier this year, examined IBD severity, medication adherence, quality of life, as well as medicinal cannabis use and how it impacted these measures.

More than 90 per cent of patients surveyed reported that medicinal cannabis use improved their symptoms – with greatest benefits reported for abdominal pain, stress, sleep, cramping and anxiety.

However, there were fewer benefits to symptoms associated with disease pathology, such as rectal bleeding, obstructive symptoms and stool frequency, consistency and urgency.

The study also highlighted that the majority of patients were using cannabis from illicit sources, with only three respondents using legally prescribed pathways.

Researchers at the Lambert Initiative have put this down to a ‘lack of experience and knowledge’ of medical cannabis among health professionals, and ‘uncertain evidence of efficacy’.

In a companion study, researchers surveyed 93 Australian gastroenterologists to determine attitudes and knowledge of medical cannabis.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported having patients using medical cannabis, but only a minority supported use of it in IBD or expressed a desire to prescribe.

The study concluded: “Cannabis is being used for symptom relief by patients with in!ammatory bowel diseases, often independently of their doctor’s guidance. After surveying 93 Australian gastroenterologists, we found only a minority supportive of use or wanting the ability to prescribe, despite being supportive of future research.”

Speaking to Cannabis Health, principal investigator and academic director of the Lambert Initiative Professor Iain McGregor said: “We ask patients the reasons for them using illicit sources, of which there are many.

“The results of the companion survey shows that what IBD patients were saying was correct – it’s actually quite hard [to obtain a legal prescription], only one in five gastroenterologists want to prescribe medical cannabis.”

He continued: “Under these conditions patients are left with very little choice, either go shopping for a gastro – which is very difficult – and wait several weeks for an appointment, or turn to the black market.”

The survey was inspired by the experiences of Steven Taylor and his family from the Blue Mountains, who was arrested for growing medical cannabis in 2018.

The Lambert Initiative itself was founded by Michael Lambert, following a similar plight, after he was forced to break the law to access medical cannabis for his severely epileptic daughter.

Prof McGregor explained: “Steven was arrested for growing cannabis to help alleviate the suffering of his daughters Morgan and Taylor, who suffered from severe IBD and found great relief from non-intoxicating cannabis leaf juice preparations.”

“As well as science we have an advocacy role at the Lambert Initiative, and one of the nice things that we can do is take a case like that to a survey and then onto clinical trials,” he added.

“At the moment we are pondering a trial with juice cannabis for IBD to try and validate what the Taylors were doing.”







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