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Medical cannabis ‘effective’ and ‘fast-acting’ for neuropathic pain – study

Researchers say the treatment also has significantly fewer side-effects than conventional medicines.



Researchers say cannabis was found to have fewer side effects than conventional medicines.

Researchers behind a new study say medicinal cannabis is not only effective and fast-acting in the treatment of neuropathic pain, but also has fewer side-effects than conventional medicines. 

A retrospective study, conducted by scientists from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE Hamburg) in Germany in cooperation with the telemedicine platform Algea Care, explored the effects of cannabis treatment in patients with chronic neuropathic pain.

The results, published in the international journal Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids, are based on an evaluation of 99 cases in German patients aged between 20 to 81-years-old.

The patients in the study were prescribed cannabis by specialist doctors and most consumed cannabis flower with a THC content between 12-22% and a maximum daily dose of up to 1g.

Pain intensity, sleep disorders, general condition, side effects and therapy tolerance were assessed at six follow-up examinations through verbal interviews. The data was then compared to baseline results using the non-parametric Wilcoxon Rank Sum Test.

Not only was cannabis found to be effective in treating neuropathic pain and its accompanying sleep disorders, but significant pain relief was observed within just a few weeks and lasted until the end of the study period. 

In addition, no serious side effects were reported during the study, with 91% of those surveyed saying the therapy was well tolerated.

Significant reduction in pain scores 

At the start of treatment, the majority of patients had severe pain, with the average ‘pain score’ reported to be 7.5 out of a maximum of 10, and 96% of patients reporting a pain score greater than six. 

At the first follow-up visit, which was within six weeks of beginning medical cannabis therapy, the reduction in reported pain scores was significant, with a new average pain score of 3.75.

90% report improvements in condition 

At the first follow-up appointment, 90% of the patients reported an improvement in their general condition. 

At the culmination of the study, over the entire observation period of six months, 97 patients (99%) reported an improvement in their general condition during one or more follow-up appointments.

During the patients’ respective six follow-up consultations, 279 of the 307 patients (91%) reported that they were responding positively to the medical cannabis treatment. 

No serious adverse events were reported during the six-month study period, though potential side effects may include psychosis, rapid heartbeat, breathing problems or deficits in vital activities such as sleep and sexuality.

Instead, the patients reported minor side effects – such as dry mouth (5.4%), tiredness (4.8%) and increased appetite (2.7%).

An alternative to conventional treatments? 

According to Algea Care, only an estimated 2% of practising doctors in Germany have prescribed medicinal cannabis. 

The aim of this study was to investigate the therapeutic benefit of the treatment as an alternative therapy option with few side effects.

The independent scientific evaluation of the data, provided by Algea Care, was carried out by Dr Lan Kluwe and physician Dr Said Farschtschi, from the Department of Neurology at UKE Hamburg.

Dr Julian Wichmann, founder and CEO of Algea Care, who was instrumental in designing the study, commented: “The results make it clear that therapy with medical cannabis is not only effective and fast-acting with a long-term positive impact, but, in contrast to conventional medication, also has significantly fewer side effects.

“Medical cannabis therapy has been legal in Germany since March 2017, but there is still an unfortunate and unwarranted stigma surrounding the use of medical cannabis. Despite this challenge, an estimated 250,000 people across Germany have been prescribed medical cannabis to relieve a wide variety of symptoms – including migraines, depression, ADHD, endometriosis, sleep disorders and chronic pain.”

Read more on the study here 

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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