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Medical cannabis increases quality of life in patients with chronic diseases: Study

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Study focused on treating a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and inflammatory bowel disease

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Medical cannabis products are well-tolerated and can improve the quality of life of patients with chronic illnesses, according to a new study published in Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology.

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The study was focused on patients enrolled in the U.K. Medical Cannabis Registry and investigated the clinical outcomes of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) for a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and inflammatory bowel disease. 

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Investigators analyzed health-related quality of life data for nearly 3,000 patients who either vaporized cannabis or ingested extracts containing THC and CBD. Using validated questionnaires, the researchers compared data at baseline, one, three, six and 12 months. 

The results showed that CBMPs improved health-related quality of life and reduced anxiety levels in patients and improved sleep. No serious adverse events were reported during the study. Mild to moderate adverse events included fatigue, dry mouth and lethargy. 

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 The study also found that women and cannabis-naive patients were at increased likelihood of experiencing adverse events.

“This difference may be secondary to differences in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics between male and female patients,” study authors noted, adding that the divergence of outcomes between men and women “is an important consideration to ensure safe prescribing.”

Noting the limitations of the study, including a lack of a control group and potential selection bias, researchers underscored the need for further clinical trials to generate guidelines to optimize therapy with CBMPs.

Medical cannabis was legalized in the U.K. in 2018, but advocates say cost, limited availability, regulatory barriers and stigma are all contributing factors in barriers to access.

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Medical cannabis is not currently funded by the National Health Service (NHS), and patients must pay for the limited number of available medical products themselves.

In 2018, six-year-old Alfie Dingley, who lives with a rare form of epilepsy called PCDH19, became the first person in the U.K. to receive a permanent medical cannabis licence. In 2021, Dingley’s mother, Hannah Deacon told The GrowthOp that there’s no funding pathway for medical cannabis in the U.K.

“There’s no desire to prescribe it. I think there’s a huge amount of stigma still around the word cannabis,” she said, adding that many families with sick children have to fundraise to help cover the costs.

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