Medical Cannabis Effective for Pain Relief in Cancer

Pain relief better with THC:CBD balanced strains than THC-dominant and CBD-dominant strains
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

WEDNESDAY, May 3, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Medical cannabis is effective for pain relief in cancer, according to a study published online May 2 in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

Saro Aprikian, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and colleagues examined the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis in reducing pain and concurrent medications in 358 patients with cancer who were part of the Quebec Cannabis Registry. Patients were followed up at three, six, nine, and 12 months.

The researchers found that 13 of 15 adverse events reported in 11 patients were not serious; the two serious events, pneumonia and cardiovascular events, were unlikely to be related to medical cannabis. At three-, six-, and nine-month follow-up, there were significant decreases in the Brief Pain Inventory worst pain, average pain, overall pain severity, and pain interference. Significant decreases were also seen in revised Edmonton Symptom Assessment System pain scores at three-, six-, and nine-month follow-up. Better pain relief was seen with tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol (THC:CBD) balanced strains compared with THC-dominant and CBD-dominant strains. At all follow-ups, there were decreases observed in total medication burden. At the first three follow-ups, decreases in morphine equivalent daily doses were observed.

"Our data suggest a role for medical cannabis as a safe and complementary treatment option in patients with cancer failing to reach adequate pain relief through conventional analgesics, such as opioids," the authors write.

The study was funded by several licensed cannabis producers; one author disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry and cannabis-producing companies.

Abstract/Full Text

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