GW Pharmaceuticals Publishes First Ever Study Using THC in the Treatment of Arthritis
Autoimmune diseases are becoming pandemic across the planet, a phenomenon that has taken off like a modern plague. Its causes are multifactorial, and finding out exactly why this is occurring will take many years of research.
Patients suffering from autoimmune diseases have many conventional prescription medications at their disposal. However, all of these drugs carry significant side effects, some of which can be deadly. Patients who wish to avoid the sometimes serious adverse effects of these powerful ‘immune modulators’ as they call them, do not have much else available.
You may recall the untimely and shocking death of Glenn Frey, the co-founding member of the world-famous American band the Eagles, who some allege died from complications of the medicine he used to treat his rheumatoid arthritis. In other words, the chronic use of these medications can have severe consequences.
Autoimmune diseases never resolve on their own, so it’s important to know if there is anything in the ‘alternative’ sphere that could prove to be of benefit.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of a constellation of crippling autoimmune diseases. The cause is unknown as are most autoimmune diseases. In RA, the body attacks the tissues lining the joints especially the hands, feet and knees, but there are a multitude of internal disorders as well. In some people, the condition also can damage a wide variety of body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and blood vessels. It affects the entire body, which in itself, can affect your immunity to other diseases such as pneumonia. When this happens, combined with the immune suppression of some commonly used medications, a pneumonia can become life-threatening.
The British pharmaceutical firm GW Pharmaceuticals has been leading the way with prescription THC preparations such as their well-known Sativex®. In fact, they are one of only a few companies performing clinical studies on humans.
There was a recent clinical trial performed entitled ‘Preliminary assessment of the efficacy, tolerability and safety of a cannabis-based medicine (Sativex®) in the treatment of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.’
The purpose of their study was to assess the efficacy of a cannabis-based medicine (CBM) in the treatment of stiffness, arthralgias and myalgias (joint and muscle pain) due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
They compared Sativex® with placebo in a randomized, double-blind, parallel group study in 58 patients over 5 weeks of treatment. Randomized double blinded studies are the gold standard for evidence-based medicine. You may not know this but Sativex® is rather unique. Its medicine is delivered as an oromucosal spray. It was used only in the evening and assessments were made the following morning.
Efficacy outcomes assessed were pain on movement, pain at rest, morning stiffness and sleep quality.
What they found was, in comparison with placebo (a non-acting substance), the CBM group produced statistically significant improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest, and quality of sleep. The large majority of adverse effects were mild or moderate, and there were no adverse effect-related withdrawals or serious adverse effects in the active treatment group.
In their conclusions they demonstrated a significant positive outcome in treating some of the manifestations of their disease. It was the first ever controlled trial using a cannabis based medication, in this case Sativex® in the treatment of RA.
They showed that Sativex® caused a significant analgesic effect and overall disease activity was significantly suppressed following treatment. They readily admit that the differences are small and variable across the population. But they still represent benefits of clinical relevance and show the need for more detailed investigation in this indication.
If additional studies of this medication turn out to have similar conclusions we may have a very useful alternative to dangerous prescription drugs in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
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