In a new special issue of the European Journal of Internal Medicine, researchers are calling for medical cannabis to be properly established in the mainstream.
Medical cannabis is thought by many to be a safe and effective pain relief. The special issue of the journal provides a comprehensive overview of current evidence for the use of cannabis and calls for more research to expand the evidence base.
Professor Victor Novack, guest editor of the special issue and a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, said: “We feel it is absolutely imperative to not only present the current state of affairs, but also propose the development of the scientific research programme within the paradigm of evidence-based medicine.
“Our ultimate aim should be to scientifically establish the actual place of medical cannabis-derived products in the modern medical arsenal.”
Safety and effectiveness
Medical cannabis has been used for centuries to help pain relief, aid sleeping and treat conditions such as glaucoma; however, little evidence exists on its safety and effectiveness.
This is partly due to recent legal restrictions on its use, which have knocked research efforts substantially, and doctors therefore have little to no understanding of its use.
Since 2012, however, the number of studies published on the subject has been strong. Two major studies are in the new journal on the use of cannabis patients and the elderly, as well as evidence, regulations, ethics and practical use.
The two studies
In one study led by Novack, a team of researchers from Israel analysed data collected during the medical cannabis treatment of 2,970 cancer patients between 2015 and 2017.
This found that cannabis elevated problems with pain and sleep, with a 95.9% improvement rating among patients.
The same team also analysed how effective medical cannabis is for elderly patients being treated in the 2015-2017 period for a number of issues, including pain and cancer.
It was concluded in the paper: “Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population. Cannabis use may decrease the use of other prescription medicines, including opioids.
“Gathering more evidence-based data, including data from double-blind randomised-controlled trials, in this special population is imperative.”
Sufficient evidence to initiate treatment
Novack concluded: “We hope that it will provide physicians with a contemporary summary of different aspects related to the medical cannabis and guide the choice of an appropriate for the indications where the evidence is sufficient to initiate the treatment.
“We also hope the articles will facilitate the conversation on the future of medical cannabis research and its accommodation into mainstream medicine.”