Earlier this month, experts in the field of pain and cannabis medicines presented at the Royal Society of Medicine. Alex Fraser, patient access lead for Grow Pharma, reviews the event.
Real-life in-person events are few and far between in these days of Covid. This is just one of many reasons why we at Grow Pharma were so excited to be a part of last week’s educational event at the Royal Society of Medicine hosted by Integro Medical Clinics.
Aptly titled; Pain and cannabis medicines: Everything you want to know (but were afraid to ask), the event, held on Monday 11 October, was a day-long agenda of presentations from some of the leading experts in their respected fields, primarily medical cannabis prescribing, regulation, pharmacology and research.
Grow was honoured be asked to sponsor the event alongside Aurora Cannabis, LVL Clinics and The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis.
As well as sponsoring, I had the personal pleasure of kicking the day off with a presentation on the history of cannabis and route to legalisation on prescription in the UK (not a brief subject to fit into 20 minutes). I was also asked to host one of the sessions later in the day introducing Integro’s stellar team of cannabis-prescribing specialist doctors. I’m still in awe to have shared a stage with so many individuals that I respect so much.
It was fantastic to hear from Professor Raphael Mechoulam calling in via Zoom. The world-renowned Israeli biochemist, now in his 90s, discovered THC and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and as such is a true legend in the field. Also speaking were the ever-passionate Dr Arno Hazekamp, an independent consultant with extensive experience in the field including seven years as Dutch medical cannabis pioneer Bedrocan’s head of research and the insightful Paul Chrisp of NICE, an organisation it would be negligible not to include in a high-profile medical cannabis event.
However, it was the clinical team at Integro that were most fascinating. Integro clinical lead and pain specialist Dr Anthony Ordman played the charming host throughout and gave a hugely informative presentation on the uses of different formulations of cannabis medicines. Integro Clinic’s specialist nurse, Sophie Hayes, gets a special mention for organising the impressive line-up of speakers on top of delivering a comprehensive talk on the practicalities of caring for patients prescribed cannabis medicines.
Dr Basil Almahdi spoke passionately about the potential of cannabis medicines in the treatment of migraines. Pain specialist Dr Sally Ghazaleh and gynaecologist Srinivas Vindla gave insights on the use of cannabis medicines in the context of women’s health. Neuropsychiatrist Dr Mayur Bodani presented on mental health and cannabis medicines.
Oncologist Dr Andrew Gaya gave a powerful talk on the use of cannabis medicines for patients undergoing cancer treatment. He also gave an important review of the evidence to date for cannabinoids treating cancer and reducing tumour size (an area where prescriptions are not currently allowed, and research is still in its infancy).
Dr Gaya spoke about the positive impact seen in one of his patients who had undergone six years of progressive cancer and various treatments finishing by pointing out that the patient was doing well enough that they were present in the room for the talk on their own case study (for those interested the patient has an anonymised Instagram account covering their journey since being prescribed cannabis medicines).
Dr Ayesha Mian of the CMC gave a talk on education for clinicians. Pharmacologist John Brew from cannabis-prescribing clinic LVL Health spoke about their focus on research. Dr Matt Brown was unfortunately taken ill not long before the event but was replaced last-minute by former colleague Eleanor Owen-Jones to give a perspective on clinical research in cannabis medicines.
Each talk was important, illuminating and insightful and, in the coffee breaks, lunch and drinks that followed, attendees, including doctors interested in prescribing, industry professionals from some of the world biggest producers of cannabis medicines as well as regulators, nurses and other HCP’s weren’t shy about expressing how impressed they had been with the whole day.
Among the many cannabis-prescribing clinics we work with at Grow, it does feel Integro have taken it upon themselves to lead the pack. Not only with events like this, but in their day-to-day practice and patient care. They are the only clinic that provides a Monday-Friday 9-5 nurse phone line to support their patients and, from speaking with patients on a daily basis – often in relation to the good and bad experiences with the various clinics – I can’t remember a patient having a bad word to say of Integro or their team.
Since the event I’ve updated a list of cannabis clinics I use to help inform patients and noted the number of these now in the UK and Channel Islands has trebled since the start of 2021.
Nearly three years since the law change, it’s certainly been a long time coming, but with events like this and clinics like Integro, patients can be assured that they are in safe hands as medical cannabis in the UK starts to grow more rapidly.
Medical cannabis reduces pain and opioid use in cancer patients – study
Findings suggest that medicinal cannabis can be carefully considered as an alternative to the pain relief medicines.
Medical cannabis reduces cancer-related pain and the need for opiate-based painkillers, reveals a new study in oncology patients.
A comprehensive assessment of the benefits of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain, has found that for most oncology patients, pain measures improved significantly, other cancer-related symptoms also decreased, the consumption of painkillers was reduced, and the side effects were minimal.
Published in Frontiers in Pain Research, these findings suggest that medicinal cannabis can be carefully considered as an alternative to the pain relief medicines that are usually prescribed to cancer patients.
Pain, along with depression, anxiety, and insomnia, are some of the most fundamental causes of oncology patient’s disability and suffering while undergoing treatment therapies, and may even lead to worsened prognosis.
Author, David Meiri, assistant professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, explained: “Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mainly treated by opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as hazardous, so alternative therapies are required.
“Our study is the first to assess the possible benefits of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain in oncology patients; gathering information from the start of treatment, and with repeated follow-ups for an extended period of time, to get a thorough analysis of its effectiveness.”
Need for alternative treatment
After talking to several cancer patients, who were looking for alternative options for pain and symptom relief, the researchers were keen to thoroughly test the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis.
“We encountered numerous cancer patients who asked us whether medical cannabis treatment can benefit their health,” said co-author Gil Bar-Sela, associate professor at the Ha’Emek Medical Center Afula.
“Our initial review of existing research revealed that actually not much was known regarding its effectiveness, particularly for the treatment of cancer-related pain, and of what was known, most findings were inconclusive.”
The researchers recruited certified oncologists who were able to issue a medical cannabis license to their cancer patients. These oncologists referred interested patients to the study and reported on their disease characteristics.
Bar-Sela said: “Patients completed anonymous questionnaires before starting treatment, and again at several time points during the following six months. We gathered data on a number of factors, including pain measures, analgesics consumption, cancer symptom burden, sexual problems, and side effects.”
An analysis of the data revealed that many of the outcome measures improved, with less pain and cancer symptoms. Importantly, the use of opioid and other pain analgesics decreased.
In fact, almost half of the patients studied stopped all analgesic medications following six months of medicinal cannabis treatment.
“Medical cannabis has been suggested as a possible remedy for appetite loss, however, most patients in this study still lost weight. As a substantial portion were diagnosed with progressive cancer, a weight decline is expected with disease progression,” reported Meiri.
He continued: “Interestingly, we found that sexual function improved for most men but worsened for most women.”
Meiri would like future studies to dig deeper and look at the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in different groups of cancer patients.
“Although our study was very comprehensive and presented additional perspectives on medical cannabis, the sex, age, and ethnicity, as well as cancer types and the stage of the cancer meant the variety of patients in our study was wide-ranging. Therefore, future studies should investigate the level of effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in specific subgroups of cancer patients with more shared characteristics.”
Lack of research preventing wider prescribing of cannabis for arthritis
The review found limited progress in understanding the potential of cannabis for the treatment of pain.
A lack of research is preventing wider uptake of medical cannabis prescribing for arthritis pain, according to a new review published in the US.
A new review article has found that there has been limited progress in understanding the potential of cannabis-based therapies for the treatment of pain associated with rheumatic conditions in the past five years.
The article concluded that this is primarily due to a lack of standardisation of clinical research and barriers to conducting research due to existing federal and state regulations in the US.
The review, which was published by CreakyJoints, an international digital community for arthritis patients and caregivers, found that the legalisation and decriminalisation of cannabis at a state level in the US reflects changing attitudes about cannabis as use of the drug increases across a broad range of conditions, including rheumatic diseases.
Unfortunately, while there is strong preclinical evidence showing that cannabis-based products play a role in alleviating pain and reducing inflammation, the highly variable state and federal statutes have limited patient-centred prospective research, education of clinicians and comfort of patients in disclosing their cannabis use to clinicians.
W. Benjamin Nowell, PhD, director of patient-Centered research at CreakyJoints said: “In 2019, CreakyJoints presented data from our ArthritisPower Research Registry study showing more than half of arthritis patients reported wanting information on or actually had tried cannabis and/or cannabidiol products for a purpose they perceived as medical – often for pain relief and help sleeping.
“Yet, three years later, there’s been virtually no advancement in the research necessary to provide clinical evidence that rheumatologists and patients need to make decisions about cannabis use for symptom relief in combination with approved treatments.”
He added: “Without this research, it is impossible to develop clinical guidelines for medicinal cannabis in the US, which is vital for patients seeking the full range of treatment options to explore in partnership with their physicians. The best way to treat rheumatic conditions is through the use of US Food and Drug Administration approved medications, which are backed by evidence demonstrating their effectiveness and safety profile.”
Only three cannabis-based medications are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, none of which are for the treatment of pain or other symptoms related to rheumatic conditions.
Lack of research stymying uptake of medical cannabis
Researchers draw attention to an array of studies that have shown that cannabinoids are effective in the laboratory at decreasing inflammation in cells and reducing inflammation and pain in mice and rats.
In addition, studies in humans that support efficacy are primarily surveys of people using medicinal marijuana who report relief of pain. However, in rheumatic diseases, there are very few studies of cannabis-based therapies in humans and the clinical trials conducted to date have small sample sizes and inconsistent methods.
“Although the clinical evidence about cannabis for rheumatic disease pain is lacking, it is nevertheless important to educate patients about the known benefits and risks of alternative treatments, including medical cannabis,” said Dr Stuart Silverman, rheumatologist, clinical professor of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA School of Medicine and medical director, OMC Clinical Research Center.
“As a rheumatologist who treats patients with pain, I am aware that some of my patients have found cannabis to be an effective option when traditional medications fail to reduce their pain.
“I am open to discussing medical cannabis when patients express an interest in its use. Then, if they choose to use it, I follow them closely to monitor efficacy and any side effects and to ensure that they do not consider it as a replacement for FDA-approved disease-modifying drugs.”
CreakyJoints recommends that rheumatologists and healthcare providers be prepared to “discuss medicinal cannabis with their patients in an empathetic, non-biased manner”.
Study shows safety of using cannabis with opioids
Findings suggest that CBD and THC are safe for use with opioid pain medication.
Researchers in the US have found that using cannabis with opioids does not increase the risk of addiction.
Findings from a new study suggest that CBD and THC might be safe for use with opioid pain medication, without increasing the risk of addiction.
Although more studies are needed, the results suggest that these compounds, found in cannabis, might be a low-risk way to reduce the dose of opioids needed to relieve pain.
The results show that CBD and THC do not enhance the rewarding effects of opioids, meaning that these compounds may not increase the risk for addiction when used in conjunction with opioid medications.
In the new study, the researchers gave rhesus monkeys the opportunity to choose a food reward or an injection of the opioid fentanyl.
They then tested whether CBD, THC or mixtures containing both compounds affected the number of times monkeys selected fentanyl over food.
They found that a wide range of doses of CBD or THC both alone or in a mixture did not increase or decrease the number of times they selected fentanyl.
Medical cannabis is often cited as an alternative pain reliever to opioid medication, with many patients finding they are able to reduce the number of opioids they are taking after being prescribed cannabis.
Lawrence Carey, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, said: “There is intense interest in using medical marijuana in patients with chronic pain because compounds in marijuana like CBD and THC may produce pain relief themselves or enhance the pain-relieving effects of opioids.
“This means people could potentially use lower doses of opioids and still get relief from pain. Taking less pain medication could also lead to a lowered risk of addiction or physical dependence to opioids.”
He continued: “Giving the animals the opportunity to choose between a drug injection and a food reward helped us to somewhat replicate choices a human drug user may face, such as whether to spend money on drugs or food.
“Having the option of responding for food is also useful for studying drugs like THC that produce sedative effects. It helps demonstrate the animal is reallocating behaviour from drug to food choice instead of simply shutting down response for a drug due to sedation.”
The researchers are now conducting other studies to assess whether CBD and THC can decrease signs of opioid withdrawal and relapse.
“A big reason why people continue to take opioids after they become addicted is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms,” said Carey.
“We are using what we learned from this study to determine whether these doses — which didn’t alter choice for food or drug rewards — may help relieve opioid withdrawal or decrease relapse and drug seeking behavior following periods of abstinence.”
The researchers caution that opioid use disorder is a complex disease and there are many factors to consider when developing a drug to treat it.
Although this study indicates that THC and CBD do not increase the rewarding effects of opioids, they say that before applying these findings to people, it will be necessary to determine whether these treatments alter other pathological processes involved with opioid use and to better understand any risks that may be associated with their use.
- How THC and CBD work together in the brain – new study
- Four of the best CBD transdermal products
- Grow Pharma launches new low-priced flower range for UK patients
- New grant funds for “life changing” medical cannabis prescriptions in Jersey
- Research to shed light on how UK clinicians view medical cannabis
- Why patients in Europe are accessing medical cannabis
- News2 years ago
Community extends support to cannabis icon Rick Simpson
- News2 years ago
Cancer survivor claims cannabis oil helped her beat brain tumour
- Case Studies2 years ago
CBD oil and fibromyalgia – a case study
- News2 years ago
NHS lines up cannabis medicine manufacturing
- News2 years ago
Living with chronic fatigue – my CBD story
- News1 year ago
UK grants second licence to grow high-THC medical cannabis
- Insight2 years ago
I’ve gone from a wheelchair to walking thanks to cannabis
- Feature2 years ago
Medical cannabis could help long-term effects of COVID-19, says David Nutt