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Project Twenty21 announces changes to landmark medical cannabis study

Pricing changes are due to come into effect from February.

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Project Twenty21: medical cannabis prescription

Project Twenty21, the UK’s landmark medical cannabis study, has announced a number of changes which are set to come into effect from February.

Project Twenty21 was established to help patients access affordable medical cannabis treatment while being monitored by the scientific body, Drug Science.

Its aim is to create a body of evidence surrounding the effectiveness and tolerability of medical cannabis and, to date, it has helped around 2,000 patients access medical cannabis.

Several changes to the project have been announced this week, including the pricing model for patients and confirmation that eligibility criteria are being broadened out.

On pricing, the initial price cap of £150 for Twenty21’s formulary products is being replaced by a set £7 cost per gram of flower and per millilitre of oil. The change occurs on 1 February.

Project Twenty21 explained in a statement: “When we set our initial price cap of £150 for Twenty21’s Formulary products, we drew a line for medical companies where none had already existed.

“However, as so few private prescriptions had been issued at this point, we weren’t able to draw simple comparisons with national average pricing. What we did know was that £150 for 30g of cannabis flower was going to be very competitive when compared with the illicit market.

“In the two years since, we have seen the cost of a medical cannabis prescription reduce dramatically and have no doubt that Project Twenty21 has been instrumental in encouraging this change.

“Based on our partner supplier feedback, we knew that such a competitive price cap would require review as the project progressed. The price cap was designed to run until the planned end of the project in December 2021. We can now reveal that Drug Science has been working hard with our partners to enable Twenty21 to continue beyond its original timescale.

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“To achieve this, and after a great deal of consultation, it has become clear that rather than use a capped pricing model for all medicines in the formulary, it’s more effective and logical to proceed with a set price per gram for flower and per millilitre for oil model, irrespective of quantity.”

While it was acknowledged that some patients may see overall costs increase as a result of the change, organisers said that the pricing would “provide better clarity and transparency for patients, prescribers and dispensing pharmacies.”

Mags Houston, head of Project Twenty21, said: “The decision was made by our partners, who fund Project Twenty21 and thus enable it to exist, that a change to the pricing strategy was necessary in order to allow them to continue offering high-quality products to patients and support supply going forward.

“The project was only originally conceived to run until December 2021, so this change in pricing means that we can continue to keep the study going and collect the much-needed data that will move us closer to prescriptions being funded and issues through the NHS.

“We appreciate that some patients will inevitably be worse-affected than others by this new pricing strategy. Our partners feel that the price reflects the industry at this present time and that it remains competitive whilst providing more transparency, and less confusion, across the board.

“Patients are always free to be prescribed off-formulary but keep giving their data to Twenty21 if they should so wish and their clinician is happy that the product is suitable for their needs.”

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In response, the patient group, PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access), has said in a statement that they will be raising patient concerns directly with Drug Science. Anyone who is affected is encouraged to get in touch with the organisation.

They commented:”As a patient-led advocacy organisation, PLEA is very concerned about the potential impact of the new pricing structure on patients. With the significant price changes, we fear that legal access to cannabis medicines may be compromised putting patients at risk and affecting real-world data.”

Additional changes

Other changes announced in the project update include confirmation that the study will be opened to anyone with any diagnosed condition that may be treated with medical cannabis at one of its participating clinics.

However, patients will still need to meet the clinic eligibility criteria. Patients will no longer need to have tried at least two licensed medications before trying medical cannabis. This decision will be left to the individual clinics to decide.

Also, Medicabilis by BodAustralia is no longer being available through the project.  Patients already using this particular formula will need to pay the price set by BodAustralia but can keep providing their data to Project Twenty21.

For more information visit the Drug Science website

Pain

How CBD helps me combat arthritis pain

A patient shares how they combine CBD with lifestyles changes to manage their chronic pain.

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Arthritis pain: A woman holding her hands

Caomihe Ni Drisceoil shares how she uses CBD, alongside other natural remedies, to help combat the pain from arthritis and migraines.

Caoimhe Ni Drisceoil was diagnosed with arthritis when she was in her 50s. The pain began in her knees before moving to her hands and other joints. She also suffered from painful migraines.

“It was a gradual development over the years, to a point where it was becoming uncomfortable to do the things I loved such as gardening or walking,” she said.

Arthritis: A banner advert for the Medical Cannabis Clinics

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints. It can affect people of all ages but particularly, older people. Symptoms can include joint pain, tenderness and stiffness, inflammation and restricted movement. It is thought that over 900,000 people in Ireland live with arthritis pain.

Patients will often have to make lifestyle adjustments to help ease the pain they experience. Caoimhe learned to avoid causing extra pressure on her joints if the pain was particularly bad, but she also struggled to fall asleep.

“If I was having a bad day then I wouldn’t stress the area that was inflamed. I would break up what I was doing during the day to relieve the pressure on that area and go back to it again if the pain eased off or I would take medication in the evening,” she said.

“Sometimes it would stop me from sleeping which is difficult for your physical and mental health, as well as not being able to do things you love. It’s also stopped me from learning a musical instrument which was on my bucket list. I haven’t been able to do this because of the joints in my hands being too painful.”

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Natural arthritis pain relief

Caoimhe has always been a big believer in natural remedies or homoeopathic alternatives. She often took echinacea for colds or flu. When she began researching pain relief, she looked for the natural options first.

She explained: “I started off with glucosamine and chlondroitin first, they are herbal remedies that you can get over the counter to ease the joints. Glucosamine and vitamins help the cartilage around the joints. The chlondroitin helps the glucose absorb into your body quicker. I was on that for several years while adding paracetamol if I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep from it.”

Arthritis: A person adding a drop of CBD oil to a cup of herbal tea

Caomihe had been experiencing migraine pain at the same time, and was struggling to find a pain relief option that helped her with both. As her doctor prescribed pain relief, she began to explore if CBD could offer an alternative.

“I was on half beta-blockers for over a year and they weren’t stopping me from getting the migraines,” she said.

“My doctors wanted to increase the pain relief and I wasn’t happy with that which is why I started taking CBD,” she said. “They were daily headaches that were very uncomfortable. It would make me miserable and stop me from going out.”

CBD for arthritis

Caomihe began to take CBD drops in the morning. She describes experiencing the effects “almost immediately” on her migraines. However, when it came to arthritis pain, it took further lifestyle changes.

“I noticed that once I was on it, I didn’t get full-blown migraines. I would get headaches, but they never developed into migraine symptoms. I wouldn’t get the tingling in the arms or the tongue, the brain fog or lose the ability to think clearly. It would just be a normal headache,” she said.

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Caoimhe found that CBD was just part of the many different things she could do to fight the pain rather than a cure for everything. She combined her CBD intake with dietary changes. One of her daughters is a personal trainer who was able to design a diet plan with pain relief in mind.

She said: “There are things that flare up inflammation in the body such as bell peppers, aubergines. Those [can be] bad if you are prone to inflammation so I avoided those, added more protein for energy and stopped eating gluten as a personal preference. I also gave up red wine, chocolate and cheese as they were triggers for my headaches.”

She also started to combine the CBD with ginger and turmeric which are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

“It’s part of a whole collection of things that you do to alleviate the problem,” she said.

But she does hope that the CBD industry will eventually regulate the way that dosage is worked out to make it easier for consumers.

“Figuring out the right dosage is the worst thing, especially if you are new to it,” she added.

“You do tend to find one bottle and stick to it because you get used to the system. I know they need to declare what is in the bottle but it’s not put out clearly. It doesn’t make it any easier to compare one week to another what strength you are taking.”

The difference in her pain levels has been incredible, Caoimhe says, noticing it most when she took her first holiday since the beginning of the pandemic.

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“Two years ago, going on holiday would have been difficult because I would have to carry my own luggage, and would struggle going up and down the steps of the plane. This time I was able to put the case up by myself over the seats. I suddenly realised I had been able to do that and walk up all the steps without any pain,” she added.

“That was something that really shocked me because we hadn’t done anything like that since Covid. I had been in my normal routine and not really noticed it.”

Caoimhe lives in a rural part of Ireland, but thankfully access to CBD has not been an issue. The town she is closest to has many health food stores that stock Irish CBD products. She says she would consider trying medical cannabis for the pain if it increases over time, but with the restrictions concerning chronic pain through Ireland’s MCAP program, this is not currently an option.

“I was taking medication from the doctor for years that was doing my liver absolutely no good, THC is a natural, herbal thing,” she said.

“I would have taken CBD for either condition, but I was lucky that it worked for both. I was able to come off the medication from my doctor as a result.

“I haven’t taken beta-blockers or anti-inflammatories in a couple of years, not since I’ve been taking the CBD.”

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Health

How can CBD help with Covid-19?

Juicy Fields examines if CBD could play a role in tackling Covid-19

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Covid-19: Could CBD play a role

With a desperate need for more research into treatments for Covid-19, Juicy Fields examines the ways in which CBD could help.

The world has been battling the Covid-19 crisis since 2020. The number of global infections and deaths keeps rising. As of 16 January 2022, the international infection numbers stood at 326,813,089, while the deaths reached 5,553,745.

According to research studies, CBD shows potential as a possible antiviral agent. The research is still in its early stages, and some studies have only been conducted in vitro. There is a growing need for the research to be advanced further, especially considering the virus’s rate of mutating. 

CBD may prevent infection and stabilise the aggressive immune response

According to a study published in March 2021, CBD may be essential during the early stages of the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The researchers treated cells with CBD 24 hours before infecting them with SARS-CoV-2. CBD effectively suppressed the viral infection and promoted the destruction of the viral RNA. CBD, directly and indirectly, induces interferon production, enabling the body to fight the virus. 

The researchers additionally analysed 93,000 patients tested for Covid-19. The results indicated that individuals that were taking FDA-approved CBD before the test showed a reduced risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2.

The study further supported previous studies relating to CBD and its function in inhibiting cytokine activation. SARS-CoV-2 attacks and weakens a host’s respiratory system. As a response, the immune system has an overactive inflammatory response. This leads to a cytokine storm, the leading cause of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, characterised by fluids in the alveoli. Consequently, severe tissue damage leads to multiple organ failure and death. 

In summary, this study concludes that CBD acts as an antiviral agent in the early stages of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Additionally, the cannabinoid helps stabilise the aggressive immune response during the advanced stages of infection. 

CBD and CBG acidic precursors may prevent SARS-CoV-2 from penetrating human cells

Another notable study was conducted recently by researchers from Oregon State University. According to the results, CBDA and CBGA, which are acidic precursors of CBD and CBG, respectively, show potential in blocking SARS-CoV-2 and emerging variants from entering human cells. Cell penetration is one of the virus’s main processes before infecting the host. 

The research team used a proprietary screening technique to identify the two acidic cannabinoids. The team concluded that Cannabigerol acid and Cannabidiol acid, at specific potency levels, helped minimise the infections by half. This is a promising result that needs to be explored further. The authors of the study noted that for this to work in humans, the potency of the CBDA and CBGA needs to be considerably high, but it is not impossible to achieve. 

The different variants and the consequent spread of the virus have raised concerns worldwide. The most prevalent mutations are Alpha and Beta, which CBGA and CBDA block effectively. The scientists are hopeful that the results will be replicated in other studies involving different variants, such as Omicron, Delta, Gamma, and others. 

Supporting pre-covid study on CBD and Asthma

A pre-covid study conducted in 2019 looked into the effectiveness of cannabidiol (CBD) in reducing the inflammation of the lungs and managing airways hyper-responsiveness. Although the study was not on SARS-CoV-2, it does prove how CBD works to inhibit cytokine production. The study concluded that different dosages of CBD help to stabilise airway hyper-responsiveness. However, only high doses of cannabidiol seemed to combat lung inflammation. 

The research on the effects of CBD on SARS-CoV-2 is still in its infancy stage. There is a growing need for more studies as the cannabinoid promises a lasting, diverse solution. With new variants popping from different parts of the world, having a solution that cuts across the mutations will bring about much-needed relief. 

Other ways CBD can help with Covid-19

One of the symptoms of Covid-19 is pain, which can stem from body aches or headaches. Numerous studies have concluded that CBD does possess potent analgesic properties. The cannabinoid is widely used as a pain-reliever by hundreds of individuals, especially since its legal status is no longer complicated. General perspective and attitudes towards CBD are positive, especially for people who have confirmed its efficiency. Covid patients can utilise CBD to combat pain. 

Since the pandemic struck, the number of individuals experiencing anxiety has significantly increased. Patients with Covid face great fear of being incapacitated and possibly dying. The growing mortality rate fuels this fear. CBD is a natural anxiolytic that can aid in alleviating anxiety.

According to Your Covid Recovery, many Covid patients experience changes in their sleep cycle. While some find it challenging to fall asleep, others experience interrupted sleep, keeping them awake most of the night. CBD helps restore the normal sleep cycle, leaving patients refreshed and healthier. 

Take away

CBD presents as a potential antiviral agent in the treatment of SARS-CoV-2. Research suggests that CBD can help prevent infection and stabilise aggressive immune responses to the virus. More research is needed to solidify these findings. CBD is readily available, comes in various forms, has minimal side effects, and is self-administered. This makes the ideal treatment option if or when it is confirmed in large-scale studies. You too can help the researchers by joining the world’s leading cannabis crowdgrowing platform, as part of their funds are destined to investigation programs that can help understand the numerous benefits of this ancient plant.

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Women's health

Study: Can cannabis help you have better sex?

Those who use cannabis regularly may have better orgasms and over sexual function.

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can cannabis help you have better sex

Cannabis consumption may improve sexual function, arousal, and orgasm, according to a new study.

Young people who use cannabis frequently may have better orgasms and overall sexual function, findings from a new observational study have revealed.

A team of researchers in Spain examined impact of alcohol and cannabis on sexual function in 274 men and women, aged 18 to 30 years old.

Sixty eight per cent of participants identified as female, while 32 per cent identified as male. 

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The study analysed the effects using three commonly used surveys, designed to identify alcohol and cannabis use disorders, as well as changes to a person’s sexual functioning, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, Cannabis Abuse Screening Test (CAST), and Changes in Sexual Functioning Questionnaire Short-Form. 

The findings revealed a higher score in sexual function, as well as arousal and orgasm, in participants who were identified as being “high risk” of having cannabis-related problems and addiction associated with alcohol consumption. 

Sexual function and arousal was found to be generally higher among heavy consumers compared to non-consumers, which the authors have indicated could be linked to the lesser feelings of anxiety and shame, as a result of the effects of cannabis.

There was no significant difference in results between men and women, indicating that young people who use cannabis frequently, regardless of gender, have better overall sexual function.

These results are consistent with previous findings involving 216 people, who used cannabis to improve their sexual experience.

Researchers concluded: “Sexual function is improved in young people who are high-risk cannabis consumers with a moderate risk of alcohol use, resulting in increased desire, arousal, and orgasm. This improvement is usually associated with a reduction in anxiety and shame, which facilitates sexual relationships.”

Women’s sexual wellness

Previous findings have also suggested that cannabis may increase sexual desire and orgasm intensity. 

But while this study has revealed positive effects on both genders, others have focused on the role it could play in improving sexual wellbeing in women.

Its effects are thought to help relieve discomfort in women, particularly those with gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, leading to a more enjoyable experience.

In a study of almost 400 women in 2019, most reported increases in sex drive, improvement in orgasm and a decrease in pain after consuming cannabis, and concluded that cannabis “appears to improve satisfaction with orgasm”.

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