A major Australian study has found that medicinal cannabis significantly improves quality of life, fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression in people with chronic illness.
The researchers analyze the results over twelve months to see whether the effects last in the longer term. Living with a chronic illness can significantly reduce quality of life by disrupting physical, mental and social functions.
The Quality of Life Evaluation Study (QUEST) is one of the world's largest longitudinal studies of the effect of medicinal cannabis on the overall health-related quality of life of patients who are chronically ill.
The Australian study, led by the University of Sydney, was supported by Little Green Pharma, which supplied the medicinal cannabis, and the Health Insurance Fund of Australia (HIF), a private not-for-profit health insurer. The researchers report the quarterly interim results of the study.
2.327 participants aged between 18 and 97 years took part in the study. Before beginning treatment with medical cannabis, participants completed questionnaires about their health status regarding anxiety, fatigue, sleep, stress and more. The questionnaires were repeated every two weeks after starting treatment and then every one to two months for up to one year.
Impact on health
Half of participants (53%) were prescribed medical cannabis for more than one health condition, while the majority (68,7%) were treated for chronic pain. Other common conditions included insomnia (22,9%), anxiety (21,5%), and mixed anxiety and depression (11%). Participants were prescribed a mix of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in different doses, dissolved in a carrier oil.
Results from the first three months of treatment found “very strong evidence of clinically meaningful improvements” in health-related quality of life and fatigue. 'Clinically meaningful improvement' refers to findings that have a significant and important impact on a person's health and/or well-being.
For participants with chronic pain, pain scores improved significantly over time. Those with anxiety or mixed anxiety and depression also showed clinically meaningful improvement, moving from moderate to severe anxiety to mild anxiety on average. Similarly, participants with depression (including mixed depression and anxiety, recurrent depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder) shifted from severe to moderate depression on average. Interestingly, despite the improvement in fatigue, no statistically significant or clinically meaningful improvement was observed in sleep outcomes.
“The QUEST results show that medical cannabis delivers statistically, and more importantly, clinically significant improvements in pain levels, fatigue and quality of life for patients,” said Jamie Rickcord, an independent GP involved in the study. “Physicians can feel confident in offering medical cannabis as an option to those who qualify, due to the emerging real-world data provided by initiatives like QUEST.” Although adverse effects were not measured as part of the study, it is noted that 30 participants withdrew due to 'unwanted side effects'.
The researchers are now analyzing the results over twelve months to determine whether the improvements will last in the longer term. More research is needed to understand the full effects of medical cannabis for treating sleep-related disorders, including looking at formulations, dosages and routes of administration.
The published article notes that although the University of Sydney received funding from Little Green Pharma to conduct this research, Little Green Pharma had no role in the study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, and writing of the report. The study was led by an independent researcher and all authors take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Source: newatlas.com (EN)