Canadians may have been surprised to learn recently that the Canadian Arthritis Society issued a press release stating their official support for medical marijuana research. So why is the Society supporting mmj research?
Nearly two thirds of all Canadians with authorization from Health Canada to use medical cannabis are using it to help manage arthritis pain. The Arthritis society cited the example of Mary Ryan, 46, who lives with ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory, painful form of arthritis that affects the joints in the spine. She has been using medical cannabis since early 2014. Mary said “Medical cannabis has made it possible for me to get through the day despite my arthritis pain.”
The call for more research of medical cannabis by The Arthritis Society means Canadians living with arthritis can make informed choices about their treatment options and physicians will have evidence-based information to make better treatment recommendations to their patients.
The Arthritis Society president and CEO, Janet Yale, said that some of the questions that need to be answered through scientific studies include:
• Is medical cannabis effective for managing pain and fatigue caused by arthritis?
• If effective, what is the best delivery method?
• What factors affect dosage, delivery mode and effectiveness? Do they vary depending on the patient, disease type, or amount of pain being experienced?
• Does medical cannabis have any adverse interactions with other medications or conditions?
• Is it possible to separate the cannabinoid molecules that contribute to pain relief from those that may have undesirable side effects?
These are all valid questions and funding for research to answer these questions is decades overdue.
Dr. Jason McDougall, professor of pharmacology and anesthesia at the University of Dalhousie, and chair of the scientific advisory committee of The Arthritis Society, conducted a review of pain relief research. He concluded that even with the huge numbers of Canadians who suffer from chronic pain “the effectiveness of current prescription drug therapies remains woefully inadequate and prolonged treatment often leads to the development of undesirable side-effects.”
His conclusion, echoed by many other scientists and millions of people around the world suffering from chronic pain, highlights the colossal failure of the pharmaceutical industry to provide effective and safe long term pain relief despite their decades of research involving billions of dollars in expenditures. Dr McDougall believes there may be a variety of safer and more effective pain delivery methods. One that he specifically mentions is cannabinoids in marijuana.
The Canadian Arthritis Society is doing more than just talking. They are actually committing to fund medical cannabis research in the coming year to understand its impact on arthritis pain and disease management. Many Canadians are likely to benefit from this research so the Arthritis Society deserves credit for publicly taking a leadership position.
Their funding should help to move Canada forward as a world leader in medical cannabis research and will hopefully prompt other organizations to also commit to funding more of this important mmj research.