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How Europe’s first medical cannabis tracking app could revolutionise care

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An innovative medical cannabis app has launched in the UK and it’s putting patients front and centre of their care.

Launching on Tuesday 27 October, Eva is a new platform to help patients consuming cannabinoid medications manage their symptoms and capture critical data on the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis.

The app has been developed by digital therapeutics company Alta Flora and allows patients to record symptoms, medication consumption and quality of life through their phone.

It includes features for patients to add and track symptom severity and medication use –  with functionality for multiple symptoms and medicine routes of administration, such as dose and formulation.

It also allows users to explore trends through interactive tools and assess their quality of life using validated scales and questionnaires, with a clinically valid framework used by NICE (National Institute for Care and Excellence).

It has been designed for use by all patients, however they access their medication.

Alta Flora’s research found a range of challenges facing patients considering medical cannabis as a treatment, including a lack of data of medical cannabis products, stigmatisation within the healthcare system and a lack of access to prescribers and products.

Commenting on the launch, Gavin Sathianathan, CEO and founder of Alta Flora, said: “It has been two years since cannabis was made legal for medical purposes in the UK and since

then, access to these life-changing medicines for patients has barely improved.

“This failure largely rests on a lack of data, the absence of which deprives doctors and

clinicians of the confidence to prescribe it as a treatment.”

Gavin told Cannabis Health that patients who were tracking their symptoms and consumption were then able to have more open discussions about cannabis with their doctors.

“The nature of cannabis medicines means that the patient is required to listen to their own body –  it’s not a standardised thing that you can just get from a doctor, it requires patient-centric tools for us to understand and that’s what we are trying to build,” he said.

“Those patients who took that data to their clinicians found they were engaging with their doctors in a way that was educating them and they were able to have less stigmatised conversations.”

Eva also includes tools for researchers to organise studies within their organisation, such as clinics who want to capture data on their own patients.

“The future of healthcare is patient-centric care. The voice of the patient is becoming much more important, they have a seat at the table now,” he said.

According to Gavin the evidence base produced by Eva will serve both patient and industry needs and could play a key role in providing much-needed data for the safety and efficacy of products, ensuring wider acceptance of medical cannabis.

“We’ve got some really motivated patients who often, after trying lots of different medicines have found that cannabis does work and want to contribute data to improve access for patients in the UK,” he continued.

“We’ve got an opportunity to build a data set to help clinics, prescribers and regulators, understand the impact of cannabis on patients symptoms and quality of life in a lot more detail.”

Gavin also hopes the platform could also be used to track the effectiveness of CBD products on pain, anxiety and sleep,

But Eva’s potential expands beyond cannabis – particularly in a post-pandemic era, he says.

“When we shared what we were doing with academics and researchers it became clear that this idea of instrumenting in real-time the consumption of medicines is valid beyond cannabis,” Gavin added.

“In a post-COVID context, we’re thinking much more about preventative medicine and staying well.

“We’ve had enquiries from the psychedelic space and for monitoring medication used to treat conditions such as diabetes and ADHD.”

Academics from leading UK charity Drug Science have played a role in design, and content from a range of organisations including the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, Primary Care

Cannabis Network, MedCannID, PLEA, and CPASS is integrated into Eva.

The service is fully GDPR compliant and will include patient safety monitoring features

and real-time reporting dashboards for clinicians.

Eva is available to download on the Android store. The iOS version will be available from early December.

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Why are women more likely to use medical cannabis than men?

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Women are more likely to swap their prescription medication for medical cannabis, a study has found.

Researchers in the US have found that women are more likely to use medical cannabis than men – and to reduce using prescription drugs as a result.

The study, which was carried out by a team at DePaul University in Chicago, examined the behaviours of medical cannabis patients with a range of chronic health conditions in Illinois.

In the state, patients do not need a prescription, but must have one of a number of conditions to qualify for a medical cannabis card.

Researchers concluded that women ‘appear to be more likely than men’ to use medical cannabis for a range of symptoms, including pain, anxiety, inflammation and nausea.

Although previous population studies have shown that men are more likely to use cannabis recreationally, women were found to increase their consumption since qualifying for medical cannabis and as a result have ’reduced or completely discontinued’ any prescribed medications they were taking.

The study came about following interviews with medical cannabis patients about how they use cannabis, either as a complementary or alternative treatment or to reduce prescription medication altogether.

“This was a correlational, cross-sectional study, in which we were looking at potential correlates of the discontinuation of prescription medication and female gender appeared to be one of them,” lead author and associate professor in health sciences at DePaul University Dr Douglas Bruce told Cannabis Health.

“We didn’t go into the study thinking that men and women were using cannabis differently, but women seem to be adopting medical cannabis in a way that parallels with how women are more likely to access alternative and complementary treatments, such as yoga, guided meditation or acupuncture.

The women in the study also reported ‘marginally lower levels’ of support from their primary care provider, and ‘significantly less support’ from specialist physicians than the men, which researchers believe could point to why women are more likely to look for other options.

“The study suggests interesting patterns and maps onto findings of other studies which weren’t looking at medical cannabis specifically, but alternative complementary therapy trends,” continued Dr Bruce.

“I’ve worked in public health for many years and there are feminist theories which would argue that men are less likely to seek out healthcare than women, and that women may be more likely to seek out alternatives due to less satisfaction with the medical care they receive.”

He added: “There are gendered patterns in terms of medical care utilisation and diagnoses that feed into women seeking out alternatives and being less bound by conventions regarding going to the doctor.”

The majority of women in the study reported fibromyalgia [a condition which is said to affect around seven times as many women as men] as their chief qualifying condition for medical cannabis, while in men the most common conditions were PTSD, spinal cord injury and cancer.

“We controlled for fibromyalgia, given that around 80 percent of those with fibromyalgia sufferers in the study were women, but the parameters of the final model remained the same, with the key differences being gender, the amount of support from a provider and whether the patient was treating multiple symptoms,” explained Dr Bruce.

A paper Dr Bruce and his team published earlier this year found that those with multiple symptoms were more likely to report experiencing some benefit from medical cannabis.

“Medical cannabis seems to infer the successful mitigation of a range of symptoms that may reinforce one another,” he said of the findings.

“Those who were treating multiple symptoms were more likely to rate cannabis as efficacious, which suggests some benefit in people using cannabis products instead of different classes of prescription medications to treat their individual symptoms, which is typically how they are prescribed.”

The report concludes that more ‘patient-centered studies’ on medical cannabis are needed to ‘understand differences in dosing, outcomes, beliefs, attitudes, formulations, pharmacology, and metabolism between men and women’.

“There’s a whole pharmacological universe that may be gendered, particularly in terms of how men and women metabolise these products,” added Dr Bruce.

“Medical cannabis is a real patient-driven phenomenon and one of my aims in conducting this kind of patient-centred research is that physicians will start to learn from their patients.

“More open communication within the medical practice will benefit both the patients and the provider.”

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Community extends support to cannabis icon Rick Simpson

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Medical cannabis legend Rick Simpson has appealed to his supporters for financial help after suffering a stroke in 2018.

Cannabis campaigners, advocates and patients, whose lives have been changed by Rick Simpson oil (RSO) are being urged to return the favour, as the man behind it has revealed he is facing huge medical bills.

Over the last 15 years Rick Simpson has become a household name for many of those who have experienced the benefits of medical cannabis.

A former engineer from Canada, Rick ‘rediscovered’ the benefits of the cannabis plant in 2004 and published his findings and recipe online.

He has since become one of the best-known and loudest cannabis activists in the world, hailed for growing the plant in his own garden and giving it away for free to those who could benefit from it.

It is thought that his work helped paved the way for regulation and legalisation of medical and recreational cannabis in several countries, including his home of Canada.

Now Rick has revealed that he suffered a stroke in May 2018 which left him paralysed, with doctors doubting that he would ever walk again.

He has spent the last two and a half years out of the limelight, focusing on his recovery with his wife Danijela, but now his family has admitted that the couple are facing ‘immense financial challenges’.

A Go Fund Me page has been launched with a target of $160,000 to help cover Rick’s medical expenses.

In a statement on the fundraising page, a family spokesperson said: “After years of advocating for people’s rights to heal themselves using natural remedies, more specifically cannabis oil today widely known as RSO – Rick Simpson Oil, which a great number of people around the world are using to either cure or help regulate many different health conditions, and after writing two books on the subject, giving countless interviews and lectures, Rick is now in need of some kindness from all of you who are willing and able to help.”

His supporters from across the world have urged people to help the man who has helped so many.

Prominent Irish campaigner Vera Twomey, whose daughter Ava uses cannabis oil to treat severe epilepsy, commented: “Our dear friend rick simpson has been a mainstay in the world of cannabis for decades the measure of his knowledge and willingness to help people all over the world about cannabis has resulted in saving lives on every continent.

“We are deeply indebted to this wonderful man and now we hope that we can support him in a small way in his recovery from illness. He deserves nothing but the best for his concern and actions for people worldwide.”

Meanwhile Canadian, Sheriann Baker, who claims RSO saved her life when she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2017, issued a moving message for him.

“Rick, I pray you return to full health soon,” she said.

“You have helped and inspired so many of us around the world and you gave us hope when some of us had none. You gave us the strength and the education to fight and I know I will forever be grateful to you for that.

“Please know the cannabis community around the world is praying for you.”

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CBD has no adverse effects on health – study

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A landmark study has shown that long-term exposure to CBD does not appear to have any adverse effects on health.

The study, which is the first of its kind to examine the toxicity and long-term effects of CBD, has found that it did not demonstrate ‘any degree of acute or life-long toxicity’.

Instead, CBD actually extended the average lifespan and increased activity in later life.

The research was conducted by Spectrum Therapeutics, the medical division of Ontario cannabis company, Canopy Growth Corporation, as part of a commitment to provide the data which is needed to support and influence public policy.

These findings could be instrumental in changing public attitudes and improving access to CBD for patients who use it to help manage a range of symptoms including anxiety and pain.

The study evaluated the solubility, stability, acute toxicity, thermotolerance, and effects on lifespan of CBD in what is thought to be the first long-term toxicity and lifespan research regarding the effects of chronic exposure to cannabidiol.

Acute and long-term exposure studies of CBD at physiologically relevant concentrations were studied in the worm model Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), which is recognised as a valid model for this kind of research on the basis that 60-80 percent of their genes are shared with humans and their short lifespan of two-three weeks makes such studies feasible.

Researchers found that CBD did not demonstrate any degree of acute or life-long toxicity or related liabilities at physiological concentrations.

Instead, it extended the average lifespan up to 18 percent and increased late-stage life activity by up to 206 percent when compared to the untreated controls within the study.

While further research into the life-long use of CBD should be carried out in mammalian models, this study indicates a lack of long-term toxicity at physiologically relevant concentrations.

“Despite widespread use of CBD, no life-long toxicity studies had been conducted to date to determine the impact – or potential impact – of long-term exposure to CBD,” said Hunter Land, senior director of translational and discovery science at Canopy Growth, said:

“These results serve as the only CBD life-long exposure data in an in vivo model to date, and the absence of long-term toxicity gives us the evidence we need as an industry to continue researching the potential health benefits for the broader application of CBD.”

The study is published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research journal and available online.

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