Cannabis products demonstrate short-term reduction in chronic pain, little else, review finds: In a systematic review of scientific literature, researchers find thin evidence that cannabis has clinical benefits
Evidence behind the effectiveness of cannabis-related products to treat chronic pain is surprisingly thin, according to a new systematic evidence review by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University.
The federally funded review, which will be updated on an ongoing basis, was published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Researchers did find evidence to support a short-term benefit in treating neuropathic pain — caused by damage to peripheral nerves, such as diabetic neuropathy resulting in pain described as burning and tingling, involving two FDA-approved synthetic products with 100% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC: dronabinol (under the trade name Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet). Both products also lead to notable side effects including sedation and dizziness, according to the review.
Another product, a sublingual spray of equal parts THC and cannabidiol, or CBD, extracted from the cannabis plant, known as nabiximols, also showed evidence of some clinical benefit for neuropathic pain, although that product is not available in the U.S. This product also led to side effects, such as nausea, sedation and dizziness.
“In general, the limited amount of evidence surprised all of us,” said lead author Marian S. McDonagh, Pharm.D., emeritus professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “With so much buzz around cannabis-related products, and the easy availability of recreational and medical marijuana in many states, consumers and patients might assume there would be more evidence about the benefits and side effects.
“Unfortunately, there is very little scientifically valid research into most these products,” she said. “We saw only a small group of observational cohort studies on cannabis products that would be easily available in states that allow it, and these were not designed to answer the important questions on treating chronic pain.”
Voters in Oregon, Washington and 20 other states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, however the researchers found many of the products now available at U.S. dispensaries have not been well studied.
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