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Review on clinical studies with cannabis and cannabinoids 2010-2014

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  • Bedrocan International
  • Hazekamp Herbal Consulting
Article

Review on clinical studies with cannabis and cannabinoids 2010-2014

Abstract

In 2010 a review by Hazekamp and Grotenhermen covered controlled clinical trials of the years 2006-2009 on cannabis-based medicines, which followed the example of the review by Ben Amar (2006). The current review reports on the more recent clinical data available from 2010-2014. A systematic search was performed in the scientific database of PubMed, focused on clinical studies that were randomized, (double) blinded, and placebo-controlled. The key words used were: cannabis, marijuana, marihuana, hashish, cannabinoid(s), tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, CBD, dronabinol, Marinol, nabilone, Cannador, nabiximols and Sativex. For the final selection, only properly controlled clinical trials were retained. Open-label studies were excluded, except if they were a direct continuation of a study discussed here. Thirty-two controlled studies evaluating the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids were identified. For each clinical trial, the country where the project was held, the number of patients assessed, the type of study and comparisons done, the products and the dosages used, their efficacy and their adverse effects are described. Based on the clinical results, cannabinoids present an interesting therapeutic potential mainly as analgesics in chronic neuropathic pain and spasticity in multiple sclerosis. But a range of other indications also seem promising. CBD (cannabidiol) emerges as another valuable cannabinoid for therapeutic purposes besides THC.
Cannabinoids 2016;11(special issue):1-18
© International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines 1
Review
Review on clinical studies with cannabis and
cannabinoids 2010-2014
Mikael A. Kowal1, Arno Hazekamp1, Franjo Grotenhermen2
Bedrocan, Veendam, The Netherlands
nova-Institut, Chemiepark Knapsack, Industriestraße, D-50354 Hürth, Germany
Abstract
In 2010 a review by Hazekamp and Grotenhermen covered controlled clinical trials of the
years 2006-2009 on cannabis-based medicines, which followed the example of the review by Ben
Amar (2006). The current review reports on the more recent clinical data available from 2010-
2014. A systematic search was performed in the scientific database of PubMed, focused on
clinical studies that were randomized, (double) blinded, and placebo-controlled.
The key words used were: cannabis, marijuana, marihuana, hashish, cannabinoid(s),
tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, CBD, dronabinol, Marinol, nabilone, Cannador, nabiximols and
Sativex. For the final selection, only properly controlled clinical trials were retained. Open-label
studies were excluded, except if they were a direct continuation of a study discussed here.
Thirty-two controlled studies evaluating the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids were
identified. For each clinical trial, the country where the project was held, the number of patients
assessed, the type of study and comparisons done, the products and the dosages used, their efficacy
and their adverse effects are described. Based on the clinical results, cannabinoids present an
interesting therapeutic potential mainly as analgesics in chronic neuropathic pain and spasticity in
multiple sclerosis. But a range of other indications also seem promising. CBD (cannabidiol)
emerges as another valuable cannabinoid for therapeutic purposes besides THC.
Keywords: cannabinoids, cannabis, therapeutic potential, controlled clinical trial, efficacy, safety,
cannabidiol
This article can be downloaded, printed and distributed freely for any non-commercial purposes, provided the original work is prop-
erly cited (see copyright info below). Available online at www.cannabis-med.org
Author's address: Mikael A. Kowal, m.kowal@bedrocan.nl
Introduction and Method
This review presents an overview of clinical
trials performed with cannabis or cannabinoids in the
period 2010-2014. It is a follow-up of a previous
review on clinical studies done in the period 2005-2009
(Hazekamp and Grotenhermen 2010), which itself was
inspired by a review by Ben Amar (2006) covering the
period 1975 to June 2005. The current review presents
large studies with several hundreds of participants, but
also small controlled studies on new indications, such
as Crohn’s disease. It also highlights the new interest in
the therapeutic value of CBD (Cannabidiol), a non-
psychotropic plant-derived cannabinoid.
The methodology of this review has been
adopted from Ben Amar (2006) and Hazekamp and
Grotenhermen (2010). In order to assess the current
knowledge on the therapeutic potential of herbal
Cannabis, isolated phyto-cannabinoids, and medicinal
preparations directly inspired by phyto-cannabinoids, a
systematic search was performed in the scientific
database of PubMed. Hosted by the U.S. National
Library of Medicine, this database contains about 20
million scientific publications from the field of life
sciences and biomedical information.
The period screened was from January 1, 2010
up to December 31, 2014. The search focused on
clinical studies that were randomized, (double) blinded,
Review
2 Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016
Table 1. Number of studies and patients reviewed
Pathology
Number of studies found
Total number of patients included
Chronic pain
11
1211
Multiple sclerosis
6
1515
Irritable bowel syndrome
3
133
Crohn's disease
1
21
Appetite and chemosensory perception
2
28
Chemotherapy-induced nausea and
vomiting
1
16
Pulmonary disease
1
9
Cannabis dependence
2
207
Anxiety
3
94
Psychosis
1
42
Parkinson's disease
1
21
Total
32
3297
and placebo-controlled or controlled by a standard
medication. The keywords used were: cannabis,
marijuana, marihuana, hashish, cannabinoid(s),
tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, CBD, dronabinol,
Marinol, nabilone, Cannador, nabiximols and Sativex.
After initial sorting, all articles and reviews
including clinical protocols or a summary of the
literature evaluating the therapeutic potential of
cannabinoids in humans were read. For the final
selection, only properly controlled clinical trials were
retained, thus open-label studies were excluded, except
when they were a direct continuation of a clinical trial
discussed in this paper. The research included the
works and data available in English. No papers in other
languages were found or excluded. Studies are
presented per indication, in chronological order.
A range of different cannabis-based products
are described in the studies presented in this review.
For the ease of the less experienced reader, these
preparations are briefly discussed below:
Inhaled cannabis refers to the dried flowers (buds) of
the female plant of Cannabis. This herbal product is
also commonly known as marijuana or marihuana. The
main way to administer cannabis as a recreational drug
is by smoking, which is also the way most medicinal
users consume it. For clinical trials, most often these
materials are analyzed for their content (in % of dry
weight) of THC and in some studies inhalation was
performed by using a vaporizer.
THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or dronabinol,
is the pharmacologically and toxicologically most
relevant constituent found in the Cannabis plant,
producing a myriad of effects in animals and humans
(Hazekamp and Grotenhermen 2010). Pure THC
(dronabinol) can be derived from natural sources
(extraction from cannabis plants) or produced
synthetically. Chemically, THC belongs to a group of
closely related compounds known as cannabinoids, and
they are commonly considered the main bioactive
components of Cannabis. Up to date, more than 100
different cannabinoids have been described, but only a
few of the major ones have been characterized for their
biological activities, including cannabidiol (CBD, see
below), cannabinol (CBN), and tetrahydrocannabivarin
(THCV) (ElSohly and Gul 2014).
Dronabinol is the INN (international non-proprietary
name) of the isomer of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol
that is present in the cannabis plant, the (-)-trans-iso-
mer. This is the only naturally occurring of the four
possible isomers.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the major non-psychotropic
cannabinoid found in Cannabis. It has shown anti-epi-
leptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, muscle relaxing,
anxiolytic, neuroprotective and anti-psychotic activity
and (when co-administered) may reduce the
psychoactive effects of THC (Russo and Guy 2006;
Grotenhermen et al. 2015).
Marinol® (Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Belgium) is a
synthetic version of dronabinol. It is formulated as a
capsule containing synthetic dronabinol in sesame oil.
In the US it is indicated for the treatment of anorexia
associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, as
well as nausea and vomiting associated with cancer
chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond
adequately to conventional anti-emetic treatments. The
patent on Marinol expired in 2011, which opened the
way for generic preparations of dronabinol, which are
now available.
Nabilone (Valeant Pharmaceuticals International,
USA) is a synthetic analogue of THC which binds to
the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1r). In Canada, the
United States, the United Kingdom and Mexico,
Nabilone is marketed as Cesamet®. It is registered for
treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and
vomiting in patients that have not responded to
conventional anti-emetics. It is also used for other
medical conditions.
Sativex® (United States Adopted Name (USAN),
nabiximols) (GW Pharmaceuticals, UK) is a cannabis-
based pharmaceutical product containing delta 9-tetra-
hydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in
approximately a 1:1 ratio, delivered in an oromucosal
(into the mouth) spray. Because of the use of whole
extracts, ballast components are also present, such as
minor cannabinoids and terpenes. Sativex has been
approved in Canada as adjunctive treatment for
Kowal, Hazekamp & Grotenhermen
Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016 3
spasticity and neuropathic pain in adults with multiple
sclerosis (MS) and in cancer pain. Sativex has been
approved in most European countries for the treatment
of spasticity in adult patients with MS. Each spray
contains 2.7 mg THC and 2.5 mg CBD.
Cannador® (Society for Clinical Research, Germany,
and Weleda, Switzerland) is an oral capsule containing
a whole plant extract, with standardized THC content
and a CBD amount controlled to lie within a fixed
narrow range with a THC:CBD ratio of about 2:1. It
has been used in several clinical trials. It has been
clinically tested for reduction of muscle stiffness,
spasms and associated pain in Multiple Sclerosis, for
cachexia in cancer patients and for post-operative pain
management. The development of Cannador as an
approved medication has now been abandoned and no
further clinical studies are planned.
Summary of clinical trials
1. Chronic pain
1.1. Oral cannabis
Compared to the years 2005-2009, a
significant increase could be observed in the number of
patients studied with regard to the impact of oral
cannabis on chronic pain. The two extracts used were
Sativex (THC/CBD oromucosal spray containing
nearly equal amounts of CBD and THC) and a similar
cannabis extract mainly containing THC (THC
oromucosal spray). The analgesic effects were not
always clearly visible in these studies. Selvarajah et al.
(2010) investigated the effects of the THC/CBD
oromucosal spray on 30 patients with painful diabetic
peripheral neuropathy (DPN) in a placebo-controlled,
double-blind, between-group study. After 12 weeks of
treatment with divided doses up to four times a day no
significant difference in pain scores could be observed
between THC/CBD oromucosal spray and placebo,
although both groups responded to treatment.
Depression was suggested as a possible confounder,
since depressed patients displayed higher baseline pain
scores, as well as a more profound placebo effect,
compared to other subjects. As a result, it was
suggested that depression should be taken into account
when designing future clinical studies into DPN.
In contrast, another between-group study with
177 patients (Johnson et al. 2010) found that
THC/CBD oromucosal spray was effective in chronic
cancer pain relief when added to standard opioid
therapy. Specifically, the Intent-To-Treat (ITT; all
randomized participants who received at least one dose
of the medication and displayed efficacy data)
responder analysis indicated that doses of THC/CBD
oromucosal spray up to 48 sprays a day in a period of 2
weeks resulted in about twice as many patients
displaying at least 30% reduction in pain intensity
scores (generally considered to represent a clinically
important difference in chronic pain trials), as
compared to placebo and THC-only oromucosal spray.
Treatment-related adverse events (AEs) were tolerable
and mainly included somnolence, dizziness and nausea.
No treatment-related serious adverse events (SAEs)
were observed. In sum, it was concluded that the
synergy between THC and CBD results in higher
analgesic efficacy than THC alone.
Based on the promising results, an open-label
follow-up study was conducted (Johnson et al. 2013) in
order to evaluate the long-term safety and tolerability
of THC/CBD oromucosal spray and THC oromucosal
spray in patients with terminal cancer-related pain. In
total 43 subjects who completed the randomized
controlled trial described above (Johnson et al. 2010)
took part in this multi-center experiment 39 subjects
received THC/CBD oromucosal spray for a median of
25 days and 4 received THC oromucosal spray for a
median of 151.5 days. The medication doses were self-
titrated by the patients, with a maximum of 48 sprays
per day. Consequently, due to the variability of
conditions present in this study, data regarding the
comparison of the drugs’ efficacy should be treated
with caution. In spite of that, the results showed that up
to 5 weeks of treatment with THC/CBD oromucosal
spray was effective for pain reduction and sleep quality
improvement. In addition, out of the patients receiving
THC/CBD oromucosal spray, 10% of subjects
administered the study medication for more than 6
months and 5% administered it for over a year without
any need to increase the dosage. As a result, it was
suggested that THC/CBD oromucosal spray remains
effective and tolerable for some patients for an
extended period of time. As for treatment-related AEs,
the most frequently observed in the THC/CBD
oromucosal spray group were dizziness, nausea,
vomiting, dry mouth, somnolence, and confusion. In
the four patients administered THC oromucosal spray,
AEs included dizziness, headache, and an episode of
memory impairment. Only three (8%) subjects from
the THC/CBD oromucosal spray condition experienced
a SAE that was considered to be related to study
medication.
A different between-group study focusing on
the impact of different doses of Sativex on chronic
cancer pain only partially confirmed the analgesic
effect of the THC/CBD spray as an add-on to standard
opioid therapy (Portenoy et al. 2012). Specifically,
none of the doses administered (low: 1-4 sprays a day;
medium: 6-10 sprays a day; high: 11-16 sprays a day)
was able to achieve 30% pain score reduction during
the 5-week treatment phase, compared to placebo.
However, the secondary responder analysis of mean
daily pain from baseline to end of the trial pointed to a
general analgesic effect of Sativex. Analysis of the
individual treatment conditions showed that this effect
was present only in the low and medium dose groups,
but, surprisingly, not in the high dose group. In
addition, the AEs were particularly problematic in case
of the high dose condition. Out of 90 patients from this
group, only 59 (66%) were able to finish the study.
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4 Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016
However, this was partially also due to the fact that the
study population was terminally ill, resulting in the
death of 20.9% patients in the nabiximols condition
and 17.6% in the placebo group. None of these deaths
was considered to be medication-related.
Sativex produced mixed results in the
treatment of neuropathic pain due to multiple sclerosis
according to a between-group study with 339 patients,
researchers of the Pain and Anaesthesia Research
Centre of St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, UK,
reported (Langford et al. 2013). Patients received the
product in addition to their current medication, which
failed to control their pain adequately. The trial
consisted of two phases. In phase A 167 participants
received the THC/CBD oromucosal spray and 172
received placebo in a double-blind manner for 14
weeks. In phase B 58 patients continued to receive
either placebo or Sativex for 18 weeks to investigate
maintenance of treatment effects.
In phase A 50 per cent of cannabis patients
experienced pain reduction of more than 30 per cent
compared to 45 per cent of placebo patients, which was
not significantly different. However, during phase B
Sativex was superior to placebo, with 57 per cent of
patients receiving placebo failing treatment versus only
24 per cent of patients from the active treatment group.
In addition, mean pain intensity and sleep quality
improved in the treated group compared to placebo.
Regarding AEs, during phase A 15 patients (9%) in the
active condition and 12 patients (7%) in the placebo
condition stopped using study medication due to,
mainly, gastrointestinal and nervous system disorders.
In phase B the most frequent AEs were fatigue,
somnolence, vertigo, dizziness and nausea. However,
in total 6 patients (10%) stopped applying their study
medication due to AEs during the open-label part of
phase B. Moreover, two patients from the active
treatment group (10%) experienced a SAE: serious
disorientation and suicidal ideation, respectively.
Suicidal ideation was also observed in case of one
patient (5%) from the placebo condition. Authors
concluded that “the results of the current investigation
were equivocal, with conflicting findings in the two
phases of the study. (…) These findings suggest that
further studies are required to explore the full potential
of THC/CBD spray in these patients.”
A between-group study by Serpell et al.
(2014) was conducted to examine the efficacy of
Sativex on peripheral neuropathic pain (PNP)
associated with allodynia. In total 246 patients took
part in the experiment, with 128 receiving THC/CBD
oromucosal spray and 118 receiving placebo for 14
weeks. The dosage was self-titrated with a maximum
of 24 sprays per day. The main analysis included two
sets of subjects: the ITT and per protocol (PP;
participants who displayed no protocol deviations from
the primary parameter) analysis sets. The ITT analysis
demonstrated at least 30% reduction in pain intensity
scores in 34 patients (28%) in the active group, in
contrast to 19 patients (16%) in the placebo group. This
was further supported by the PP analysis, which
showed the same effect in 27 subjects (36%) from the
active group, compared to 18 subjects (20%) in the
placebo condition. It was concluded that THC/CBD
oromucosal spray produced a clinically significant
improvement in average daily pain in a significantly
greater percentage of patients, as compared to the
placebo group. The treatment-related AEs were mostly
mild to moderate in severity and included mostly
nervous system, gastrointestinal, administration site
and psychiatric effects. In total, 97 (76%) subjects in
the active condition and 56 (47%) participants in the
placebo group experienced at least one treatment-
related AE. In total, 25 (20%) patients receiving
THC/CBD oromucosal spray and 8 (7%) patients
receiving placebo withdrew from the study due to AEs.
The latest (in the period covered by this
review) investigation into the effect of Sativex on
chronic pain was conducted by Lynch et al. (2014). It
was a crossover study that included 16 patients with
chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain. Subjects self-
administered their dose, with a maximum of 12 sprays
per day. After establishing an optimal dose, it was
fixed for the remainder of the study. The treatment
lasted 4 weeks and was followed by a 2-week washout
period before starting to use the other medication
(placebo or Sativex). The results were not clear: there
was no significant difference in pain scores between
the two conditions. Nonetheless, five patients reported
a borderline significant reduction in pain scores when
receiving active treatment, compared to using placebo.
Keeping in mind the small sample size and pilot nature
of the study, this was considered a promising result for
future studies into this topic. Although treatment-
related AEs were reported by most subjects, they were
not particularly problematic with fatigue, dizziness, dry
mouth and nausea being the main ones.
1.2. Oral THC
Turning the attention of this review towards
the study of isolated cannabinoids, a crossover
experiment was conducted to directly compare the
analgesic efficacy of oral THC (dronabinol) and
diphenhydramine an approved treatment for central
neuropathic pain which may display some side-effects
similar to those of THC (Rintala et al. 2010). Seven
patients with traumatic spinal cord injury (SPI)
received each medication for 8 weeks (which included
a 12-day up-titration and 9-day down-titration phase at
the start and end of this time period, respectively, a 7-
day stabilization phase, and a 28-day maintenance
phase), followed by a 7-day washout phase before
starting to use the second drug. The doses started with
5 mg of THC or 25 mg of diphenhydramine per day,
reaching a maximum daily dosage of 20 mg of THC or
75 mg of diphenhydramine, respectively. The results
did not show any significant differences between the
two treatments, while the AEs were similar for both
medications. The most frequent AEs included dry
mouth, constipation, fatigue, and drowsiness for both
Kowal, Hazekamp & Grotenhermen
Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016 5
drugs. All subjects reported fatigue at least once while
using diphenhydramine, while fewer than three-fifth of
the patients reported fatigue at least once after being
administered THC. Infrequent reports of feeling high,
dizziness, abdominal discomfort, confusion, lack of
coordination, and nausea were found only in the THC
condition. Only two treatment-related severe AEs were
reported: one related to abdominal discomfort (THC)
and the second one regarding drowsiness
(diphenhydramine). It was concluded that THC was as
effective as diphenhydramine for pain relief, while
side-effects were comparable.
1.3. Inhaled cannabis
Regarding research into the analgesic potential
of herbal cannabis, a crossover study was conducted
(Ware et al. 2010) in order to investigate the safety and
efficacy of smoked cannabis on chronic neuropathic
pain. Twenty-one patients who completed the trial
received a random dose of 25 mg cannabis material
(obtained from Prairie Plant Systems Inc., and the
United States National Institute of Drug Abuse) with
varying potency (placebo, 2.5%, 6%, 9.4% THC),
using a titanium pipe for smoking. Each dose was
administered three times daily in single inhalations for
the period of 5 days, followed by a 9-day washout
phase before starting to use the subsequent dose. The
results showed that only the 9.4% THC dose was
effective at decreasing pain and improving sleep,
compared to placebo. Treatment-related AEs were
quite mild with headache, dry eyes, burning sensation
in areas of neuropathic pain, numbness, cough and
dizziness as the most common ones in the 9.4% THC
condition. In addition, there were single reports on
euphoria and feeling "high" in each of the active drug
conditions (2.5%, 6%, 9.4% THC). It was concluded
that the highest cannabis dose administered 3 times
daily by inhalation may be a well-tolerated and
effective treatment for chronic neuropathic pain.
Another study compared the subjective effects
on pain management induced by smoked cannabis
versus oral THC (Issa et al. 2014). Thirty chronic non-
cancer pain patients received placebo, 10 mg or 20 mg
of oral THC in a crossover manner. A separate
comparison sample of 20 healthy individuals was
administered smoked cannabis (1.99% and 3.51%
THC) in a similar crossover manner. Both samples
rated the subjective psychoactive effects induced by the
drugs. The results demonstrated that the psychoactive
effects of 10 mg and 20 mg oral THC were
significantly greater than placebo and comparable to
the subjective effects of smoked cannabis. However,
there was a different pattern of peak effects (2 h with
oral administration, compared to 30 min with
smoking). Consequently, a similar "high" was induced
by both oral THC in pain patients, and smoked
cannabis in healthy subjects. There were no AEs
reported.
A single study investigated the impact of
cannabis on neuropathic pain using the Volcano
vaporizer (Wilsey et al. 2013). Thirty-nine patients
with central and peripheral neuropathic pain were
administered a placebo, low-dose (1.29%), or medium-
dose (3.53%) of cannabis by vaporizing. Subsequently,
subjective side effects and neuropsychological
performance were measured. The study found no
significant difference between the two active dose
groups. The number needed to treat (NNT) to obtain
30% pain reduction was 3.2 for placebo versus low-
dose, 2.9 for placebo versus medium-dose, and 25 for
medium- versus low-dose. The two active dose groups
did not significantly differ in terms of analgesic
efficiency. Subjective side effects were minor and
easily tolerated. The results of neuropsychological
testing showed that subjects in the medium-dose
condition displayed lower learning and memory
performance than those in the low-dose condition.
However, delayed memory performance did not differ
between the low-dose and placebo. Both doses
produced identical effects on attentional processing,
with subjects performing worse after cannabis
administration. In any case, these effects were of
limited duration and reversible within 1 to 2 hours.
Accordingly, it was concluded that vaporized cannabis,
even at low doses, may be effective in addressing
treatment-resistant neuropathic pain.
2. Multiple sclerosis
2.1. Oral cannabis
Investigation into the effectiveness of oral
cannabis on the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS)
included three studies with Sativex and large sample
sizes and a large study with a capsulated cannabis
extract (Cannador). The first one (Kavia et al. 2010)
inquired into the effect of Sativex on bladder
dysfunction associated with MS. Self-titrated doses (up
to 48 sprays per day) of either placebo or THC/CBD
oromucosal spray were randomly administered using a
between-group design for the period of 8 weeks in a
sample of 135 MS patients with an overactive bladder
(OAB). The main variable of interest was the decrease
in the daily occurrence of loss of bladder control.
Although there was no significant reduction in the
amount of urinary incontinence episodes, there were
fewer episodes of nocturia and daytime urination in the
active treatment group. As for treatment-emergent
AEs, most of them were mild or moderate in severity
and mostly related to CNS-type disturbances, including
dizziness, disorientation, headache, dissociation,
impaired balance and paraesthesia. These treatment-
related AEs led to the withdrawal of ten patients from
the experiment (7 from the active condition and 3 from
the placebo condition). In addition, three patients
reported treatment-related SAEs (2 under active
treatment and 1 under placebo treatment). Moreover, a
potential transient ischaemic attack was observed in
case of one subject receiving Sativex 4 days after
starting to use study medication. The symptoms
included shaking, coordination problems and severe
absence following a dose of 18 sprays in one day. The
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6 Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016
symptoms resolved after ceasing to administer the
study drug. Sativex treatment was restarted the next
day but the symptoms appeared once again a day later
after increasing the dose to 18 sprays.
Collin et al. (2010) examined 337 patients
with MS in a between-group study regarding the
effects of Sativex on symptoms of spasticity. Patients
self-titrated over a period of 14 weeks (up to 24 sprays
per day) and the main variable of interest was the self-
reported spasticity on a 0-10 numerical rating scale
(NRS) a similar scale as the one applied in many pain
studies. The PP data analysis set showed a significant
decrease in spasticity NRS scores in the active
condition, compared to placebo. However, the ITT data
analysis set did not show any effects. The authors
explained this difference with the fact that subjects
who were included in the ITT set but terminated their
treatment early, displayed a detrimental effect on the
mean treatment response to active treatment in the ITT
analysis. However, those patients who complied with
the protocol showed promising beneficial effects on
spasticity. In case of AEs related to the drug, the most
frequent ones were urinary tract infections, nausea and
vomiting. Nine (5%) participants in the Sativex group
and five (3%) in the placebo condition stopped using
the study medication due to AEs. In addition, 4
treatment-related SAEs were observed: one with
aggression, agitation, delusions, irritability, insomnia
and muscle spasms; one with depression, drug
dependence and suicidal ideation; one with an acute
confusional state; and one with severe urinary tract
infection.
Another study also determined the impact of
Sativex on spasticity in MS patients (Novotna et al.
2011). It applied a between-group study design with
two phases. In the first (dose-finding) phase, 572
patients first received only THC/CBD oromucosal
spray in a single-blind manner (not knowing whether
they received the active drug or placebo) for the study
period of 4 weeks (up to 12 sprays per day).
Subsequently, 241 subjects from this phase, who
displayed ≥20% improvement in spasticity, were
randomized into the double-blind, placebo-controlled
second phase of the investigation lasting 12 weeks
(receiving the same dosage of the medication as
established in the first phase). Both the ITT analysis of
NRS spasticity scores and secondary endpoints
(including measures of sleep disturbance, depression
and overall impression of change) showed a highly
significant difference in favor of Sativex treatment,
compared to placebo, in the second phase of the study.
The authors concluded that this clearly pointed to a
beneficial effect of THC/CBD on treatment-resistant
spasticity in MS patients who displayed capacity to
respond to this kind of treatment. Moreover, the
enriched study design allowed to identify the extent of
the benefit that can be derived from the treatment with
Sativex in responder subjects. The drug-induced AEs
were quite mild and did not exceed 10% frequency for
each type of event in both groups. The most common
AEs included vertigo, fatigue, muscle spasms and
urinary tract infections, which led to the exclusion of
only 3% of patients in both phases of the study.
Notcutt et al. (2012) investigated the long-
term maintenance of efficacy of Sativex and the effect
of its withdrawal in 36 MS patients who have been
using nabiximols for the treatment of spasticity for at
least 12 weeks. Only subjects who were considered to
tolerate and receive benefits from using the THC/CBD
oromucosal spray were included in this between-group
study. All eligible subjects were included in a 1-week
baseline open-label phase in which they continued to
use their medication at a stable dose level. Afterwards,
the participants were randomized into either the
nabiximols or placebo condition and asked to continue
administering a stable dose of the drug (on average 7.3
sprays per day of Sativex and 9.2 of placebo). This
double-blind phase of the study lasted for 4 weeks. The
main variable of interest was the time to treatment
failure (TTF). The results showed that 17 subjects in
the placebo condition failed to complete the study
(94%), compared to only 8 participants in the
THC/CBD oromucosal spray group (44%). Moreover,
analysis of the TTF indicated a significant difference in
favor of Sativex - participants in the placebo group
were three times more likely to withdraw from
treatment, compared to those using THC/CBD
oromucosal spray. It was concluded that Sativex
remains effective in the relief of MS-related spasticity
in the long-term. In case of treatment-related AEs, they
were mild to moderate and included pain (experienced
by 2 subjects in the active drug condition and 5 placebo
patients), muscle spasticity (2 active, 3 placebo),
muscle spasms (2 active, 2 placebo) and depressed
mood (2 active, 2 placebo).
An investigation by Zajicek et al. (2012)
examined the influence of Cannador (capsules
containing 2.5 mg THC and around 1.25 mg CBD) on
symptoms of muscle stiffness in 279 MS patients over
the study period of 12 weeks, using a between-group
design. Subjects self-titrated the total daily dosage up
to 25 mg THC and the main variable of interest was
muscle stiffness scored on an 11 point NRS (ranging 0-
10). The results demonstrated that 29.4% of subjects
treated with the cannabis extract experienced
significant stiffness relief compared to 15.7% using
placebo. Combining this with the beneficial effects of
the active drug on body pain, spasms and sleep quality,
the results were considered as an indication of the
effectiveness of the cannabis extract in treating
symptoms of muscle stiffness in MS patients. As for
the AEs, more than 95% of these events in each
condition were mild or moderate in severity and
included mainly nervous system (71.3%) and
gastrointestinal effects (41.3%). However, several AEs
were observed at higher rates (more than 3%
difference) only in the cannabis extract group:
dizziness, attentional disturbance, balance disorder,
somnolence, dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue,
asthenia, feeling abnormal, urinary tract infection,
Kowal, Hazekamp & Grotenhermen
Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016 7
disorientation, confusional state and falling. The AEs
led to the exclusion of 30 participants from the active
drug group (21.0%) and 9 from the placebo condition
(6.7%).
2.2. Oral THC
A second between-group study by Zajicek et
al. (2013) investigated the impact of oral capsulated
THC on the progression of MS, instead of just
symptom relief. A total of 493 progressive MS patients
randomly received either oral THC (n=329; capsules
containing 3.5 mg THC), or placebo (n=164) over a
period of 36 months. The maximum allowed daily
dosage of THC was 28 mg. There were two main
variables of interest: 1) time to expanded disability
status scale (EDSS) score progression of at least 1
point from a baseline EDSS score of 4.0, 4.5, or 5.0, or
at least 0.5 points from a baseline EDSS score of 5.5 or
more, established at the next scheduled 6 monthly visit;
and 2) difference from baseline to end of trial in the
physical impact subscale of the self-reported 29-item
multiple sclerosis impact scale (MSIS-29-PHYS). The
results did not show significant effects of oral THC on
any of the scales. Consequently, it was concluded that
THC has no impact on the progression of MS in a
progressive phase. Treatment-related AEs were
difficult to quantify, since patients also reported AEs
that could have been the result of MS symptoms and
the authors did not differentiate between drug- and
disease-related AEs. Regarding SAEs, 114 subjects
(35%) who were administered oral THC experienced at
least one SAE in comparison with 46 (28%) who
received placebo. The most frequent SAE were related
to MS-associated events and infections. The number
and type of SAEs observed did not significantly differ
between conditions, suggesting that most of them were
not treatment-related.
2.3. Inhaled cannabis
A single crossover study (Corey-Bloom et al.
2012) administered smoked cannabis in order to
determine the efficacy of this drug on spasticity in MS
patients. Thirty MS subjects completed the trial in
which they received cannabis cigarettes containing 800
mg of 4% THC cannabis or placebo cigarettes with
THC removed. Each treatment lasted 3 days and the
two conditions were separated by a 11-day washout
period. The primary measure was the change in
spasticity scores on a modified 0-5 Ashworth scale.
The results pointed to a significant decrease in ratings
of spasticity in the cannabis group, in comparison to
placebo. Additionally, pain ratings on a visual analogue
scale (VAS; a 100mm scale) were significantly reduced
as well (on average by 5.28 points more than placebo).
The results suggested that inhaled cannabis is effective
in reducing symptoms of spasticity and pain in MS
patients resistant to treatment. AEs were mild and led
to only 5 treatment-related withdrawals: two patients
reported an intense “high”, two reported dizziness and
one reported fatigue.
3. Irritable bowel syndrome
3.1. Oral THC
Research by Wong et al. (2011) focused on
the impact of oral THC (dronabinol) on colonic
motility in patients with irritable bowel syndrome
(IBS). Seventy-five participants included in this
between-group study were administered a single dose
of either placebo (n=27), 2.5 mg (n=24) or 5 mg of
THC (n=24) in the form of capsules. The
measurements included left colonic compliance, the
motility index (MI; index of colonic phasic pressure
activity), tone, and colonic sensation after a meal and
during fasting. Each subject had a balloon-manometry
assembly placed in their colon which assessed colonic
functions first during fasting, then after a standard
1000kcal liquid meal. Moreover, genetic
polymorphisms of CNR1, FAAH and MGLL
genotypes were analyzed to see whether genetic
variants modulate the impact of THC on the assessed
symptoms. The results demonstrated that a single oral
THC dose of 5 mg led to improved colonic compliance
and decreased fasting colonic motility in specific
subgroups of IBS patients, i.e.: those with diarrhea
(IBS-D) and alternating IBS (IBS-A). In contrast, the
2.5 mg THC dose had no significant effect on any of
the functions measured. It was suggested that these
results point to the critical role of the dosage of THC in
producing clinically significant effects in IBS patients
and that CNR1 and FAAH genetic variations can
modulate the effects of the drug on colonic motility.
AEs included fatigue (23% of all subjects) , hot flashes
(19%), headache (13%), dizziness (11%), foggy
thinking (11%), increased heart rate (11%), dream-like
state (9%), nausea (8%), dry mouth and eyes (7%) and
were evenly observed in all of the conditions, except
for foggy thinking, which was more pronounced in the
THC groups.
Klooker et al. (2011) examined the effect of
oral THC (dronabinol) on a different aspect of IBS, i.e.
visceral sensitivity to rectal distension. This crossover
study included 10 IBS patients and 12 healthy
volunteers. The participants were given single doses of
either placebo, 5 mg, or 10 mg oral THC on three
separate days. All subjects underwent a procedure in
which an electronic barostat and a rectal balloon were
used in order to evoke rectal pressure, combined with
noxious sigmoid stimulation in order to increase
visceral perception. The main variable of interest was
the self-reported (using a 6-point scale) threshold for
discomfort and pain during rectal distension before and
after sigmoid stimulation. The results were not
promising, as THC did not decrease visceral perception
to rectal distension in any of the subjects groups. It was
concluded that THC may not be the best treatment for
reducing visceral sensitivity in IBS patients. Observed
AEs were mild and occurred mostly at the highest dose
(10 mg THC). Participants reported increased
awareness of their surroundings (80% in the IBS group,
58% in the volunteers group), light-headedness (60%
IBS, 42% volunteers) and sleepiness (50% IBS, 67%
Review
8 Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016
volunteers). AEs in the 5 mg THC condition could only
be observed in the healthy volunteers group: sleepiness
(50%), mildly increased awareness (25%), and light-
headedness (7%).
Another between-group study by Wong et al.
(2012) inquired into the effect of oral THC capsules on
gut transit in IBS-D patients and genetic variations
which may act as modulators of this process. Thirty-six
patients were administered placebo (n=13), 2.5 mg
(n=10) or 5 mg of THC (n=13) twice daily, for 2 days.
Gastric, small bowel, and colonic transit was examined
by radioscintigraphy, and FAAH and CNR1 genetic
variants were genotyped. The results did not reveal
significant effects of oral THC on any of the measures.
However, the CNR1 rs806378 CT/TT polymorphism
was suggested to be related to a moderate delay in
colonic transit, as compared to the CC genetic variant.
It was suggested that neither of the THC doses had
impact on gut transit in IBS-D, however, a genotype
effect was suggested to be a moderating factor that
might allow to identify a IBS-D patient subgroup that
may respond more positively to cannabinoid therapy.
Although AEs were not reported in detail, it seemed
that the groups did not significantly differ from each
other in terms of observed AEs.
4. Crohn's disease
4.1. Inhaled cannabis
A single study by Naftali et al. (2013) looked
into the impact of smoked cannabis on induction of
remission in patients with Crohn's disease. A between-
group design was used in which 21 treatment-resistant
patients were administered cannabis cigarettes twice
daily containing herbal cannabis with a total dose of
115 mg THC (n=11) or placebo (n=10) for a period of
8 weeks. The main variable of interest was the Crohn's
Disease Activity Index (CDAI) which is an indicator of
remission. Although the results demonstrated that 5
subjects in the cannabis condition and 1 subject in the
placebo condition entered clinical remission, the
groups did not significantly differ from each other.
Nevertheless, the cannabis group was still associated
with a significant decrease of 100 points in CDAI
scores after 8 weeks of treatment. In spite of the
relatively high THC dose, there were no significant
differences between the occurrences of AEs between
the two groups, with sleepiness, nausea and confusion
being the main ones.
5. Appetite and chemosensory perception
5.1. Oral THC
Brisbois et al. (2011) inquired into whether
oral THC can enhance taste and smell (chemosensory)
perception, including appetite, caloric intake, and
quality of life (QOL) in cancer patients with
chemosensory alterations. Twenty-one cancer patients
completed this between-group study and were
administered either oral THC (2.5 mg THC capsules,
n=24) or placebo (n=22) two times daily for a period of
18 days. Over the course of the study, subjects were
llowed to increase their dose to a total of 20 mg THC
per day. All the measures included self-report forms.
The results showed that THC, in comparison with
placebo, enhanced chemosensory perception,
macronutrient preference, appeal of foods, appetite,
relaxation, and sleep quality of the patients. The AEs
were minor and did not differ significantly between the
groups (nausea/vomiting being the main one).
However, there was one possible THC treatment-
related SAE (irregular heartbeat). Consequently, it was
concluded that oral THC is a well-tolerated drug that
may palliate chemosensory alterations and increase
food satisfaction and enjoyment.
5.2. Inhaled cannabis
A study by Riggs et al. (2012) evaluated
whether smoking cannabis leads to changes in appetite-
related hormones among HIV-infected male patients.
Seven patients were administered cannabis joints 4
times daily for a period of 5 days, each with an
individualized dose which was optimized during an
initial titration session (using joints with a
concentration range between 1% to 8% THC). The
drugs were given in a crossover manner, with a 2-week
washout period in between. The variables of interest
were the concentrations of the appetite hormones
ghrelin, leptin, PYY and insulin, as determined by
analysis of blood samples. The results indicated that
cannabis administration led to significant increases in
plasma concentrations of ghrelin and leptin, and
reductions in PYY, as compared to placebo. There
were no effects on insulin levels. The authors
concluded that the findings point to the modulation of
appetite hormones through the endocannabinoid
system. No AEs were reported.
6. Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
6.1. Oral cannabis
A single between-group investigation
evaluated the potential of Sativex for decreasing
chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) in
treated cancer patients (Duran et al. 2010). Sixteen
patients with CINV were administered THC/CBD
oromucosal spray (n=7) or placebo (n=9) for a period
of 4 days (following a chemotherapy cycle) during
which they self-titrated their dosage (up to maximum
48 sprays per day). Structured interviews, subject
diaries, self-report questionnaires and visual analog
scales were used to assess symptoms in the patients.
The results pointed to a significantly higher proportion
of subjects in the active condition demonstrating a
complete response to treatment (defined as no vomiting
and a mean nausea VAS score of ≤10mm on a 100mm
scale). The AEs were rather mild, with somnolence,
fatigue and dry mouth being the most common ones.
Nonetheless, there were 2 AEs that were considered
somewhat severe: one participant in the Sativex group
and one in the placebo group experienced severe
fatigue and mild somnolence and dysgeusia with
vomiting. It was concluded that THC/CBD oromucosal
Kowal, Hazekamp & Grotenhermen
Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016 9
spray may be a safe and promising treatment for CINV
that needs further confirmation in future trials.
7. Pulmonary disease
7.1. Oral cannabis
Pickering et al. (2011) inquired into the effects
of Sativex on pulmonary ventilation and
breathlessness. Five healthy volunteers and four
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
patients were administered a single dose of THC/CBD
oromucosal spray or placebo in a crossover manner (up
to 4 sprays). Breathlessness was induced by inhalation
of fixed carbon dioxide loads. The measurements
included self-reported breathlessness indicators, mood
and activation, end-tidal carbon dioxide tension and
ventilatory parameters. The results did not show any
differences between the two conditions in terms of
breathlessness scores or any respiratory evaluations.
However, COPD patients reported fewer descriptions
of the unpleasantness of the breathlessness procedure
(pre-defined phrases to describe their sensation of
breathlessness). The authors concluded that the
addition of respiratory descriptors might be useful in
the evaluation of drug effects on breathlessness. In case
of AEs, one healthy subject experienced drowsiness,
one COPD patient reported confusion and another
COPD patient experienced transient cardiac
dysrhythmia.
8. Cannabis dependence
8.1. Oral cannabis
Research by Allsop et al. (2014) investigated
the efficacy of Sativex on treating cannabis dependence
and withdrawal using a between-group design. Fifty-
one patients with DSM-IV-TR cannabis dependence
were administered increasing doses of THC/CBD
oromucosal spray (up to 32 sprays per day) for a period
of 6 days. The Cannabis Withdrawal Scale (CWS) was
used as the measure of severity of cannabis withdrawal
and cravings. Retention in the withdrawal treatment
and AEs were also included as main variables of
interest. The results showed that THC/CBD
oromucosal spray significantly decreased CWS scores
(average 66% reduction from baseline), as compared to
placebo (average 52% increase from baseline) during
the treatment. Subjects in the active group reported
lower withdrawal-related irritability, depression, and
cannabis cravings. In addition, they were more likely to
stay in treatment, in comparison to participants in the
placebo condition. In contrast, there were no significant
differences between the two conditions in terms of
number of AEs. In sum, the results were considered as
a promising basis for further evaluation of the
effectiveness of THC/CBD oromucosal spray for
treating cannabis dependence.
8.2. Oral THC
A between-group study by Levin et al. (2011)
investigated the effect of oral THC on treating cannabis
addiction in 156 patients with DSM-IV-TR cannabis
dependence. Subjects received either placebo or 20 mg
oral THC twice daily for the period of 12 weeks. They
were then required to provide urine samples, complete
self-report instruments and have their vital signs and
AEs evaluated twice daily. Treatment retention was
significantly higher at the end of the study for the oral
THC condition (77%), compared to placebo (61%).
Moreover, withdrawal symptoms were significantly
decreased in the oral THC group, compared to placebo.
Although both conditions displayed a decrease in
cannabis use over time, there were no significant
differences between the groups. As for treatment-
related AEs, four instances of drowsiness were
observed (2 in the THC group and 2 in the placebo
group), four patients reported feeling overly intoxicated
(3 THC, 1 placebo), two reported heightened blood
pressure (both THC), two reported nightmares and
sleep disturbances (1 THC, 1 placebo), and one
reported light-headedness (THC). It was concluded that
oral THC is a well-tolerated, promising treatment for
cannabis dependence that can enhance treatment
retention and decrease withdrawal symptoms.
9. Anxiety
9.1. Oral CBD
A crossover investigation by Crippa et al.
(2011) was conducted to examine the effects of oral
purified CBD on generalized social anxiety disorder
(SA). Ten SA patients were administered 400 mg of
CBD or placebo at two separate visits, at which their
regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured
using 99mTc-ethylcysteinate dimer (ECD) Single
Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT),
combined with self-assessments of subjective effects.
The results displayed that CBD was related to
significantly reduced subjective anxiety, decreased
ECD uptake in the left parahippocampal gyrus,
hippocampus, and inferior temporal gyrus, and
enhanced ECD uptake in the right posterior cingulate
gyrus. The authors suggested that CBD may decrease
anxiety in SA and that this may be associated with its’
effects on activity in limbic and paralimbic brain areas.
There were no reported AEs.
A between-group study examined the impact
of oral CBD on anxiety induced by a simulated public
speaking test in SA patients and healthy controls
(Bergamaschi et al. 2011). Twenty-four patients with
SA were given either a single dose of 600 mg of oral
CBD (n=12), or placebo (n=12). Twelve healthy
volunteers did not receive any treatment (untreated
control). All the groups participated in a simulation
public speaking test (SPST) during which they
completed subjective ratings on the Visual Analogue
Mood Scale (VAMS) and Negative Self-Statement
scales (SSPS-N). Additionally, physiological data
(blood pressure, heart rate, and skin conductance) was
obtained. The placebo SA condition displayed
significantly increased anxiety ratings and more
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10 Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016
Table 2. Studies on chronic pain
Study
Country
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Issa et al.
(2014)
United
States
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
Cannabis (smoked) and THC
(oral) - single administration;
1.99% or 3.51% THC
(smoked); 10 mg or 20 mg
THC (oral)
30 chronic noncancer pain
patients
Oral dronabinol had
similar psychoactive effects to smoked
marijuana
Lynch et al.
(2014)
Canada
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
Sativex (sublingual) - 4 week
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 12 sprays
16 patients with
chemotherapy-
induced neuropathic pain
Reduction in pain intensity
Serpell et al.
(2014)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 14
week treatment; maximum
daily dosage: 24 sprays
246 patients with peripheral
neuropathic pain
Significant improvements in pain, sleep
quality and subjective evaluations of
patients.
Johnson et
al. (2013)
United
Kingdom
Follow-up, open-label study
Sativex and THC spray
(sublingual) - long-term
variable treatment; maximum
daily dosage: 48 sprays
43 patients with chronic
cancer pain
Long-term safety and effectiveness in
pain reduction
Langford et
al. (2013)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 14
week treatment + 14 week
open-label phase; maximum
daily dosage: 12 sprays
339 patients with central
neuropathic pain associated
with MS
No significant difference between
placebo and Sativex in Phase A; Phase
B demonstrated an analgesic effect
Wilsey et al.
(2013)
United
States
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
Cannabis (vaporized) - single
administration; 1.29% or
3.53% THC
39 patients with central and
peripheral neuropathic pain
Reduction in pain. No difference in
efficacy between the two doses
Portenoy et
al. (2012)
United
States
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, graded-dose,
between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 5 week
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 16 sprays
263 patients with chronic
cancer pain
Significant analgesic effects in
secondary pain analyses when added to
standard opioid therapy
Johnson et
al. (2010)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) and THC
spray (sublingual) - 2 week
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 48 sprays
177 patients with chronic
cancer pain
Significant reduction in pain severity
when added to standard opioid therapy
Kowal, Hazekamp & Grotenhermen
Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016 11
Selvarajah
et al. (2010)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 12
week treatment; variable
dosage
30 patients with painful DPN
No significant improvement over
placebo. Depression suggested
confounding factor
Rintala et al.
(2010)
United
States
Active-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
THC (oral) - 8 week
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 20 mg THC
7 patients with neuropathic
pain associated with spinal
cord injury
Dronabinol not more effective than
diphenhydramine for pain relief
Ware et al.
(2010)
Canada
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
Cannabis (smoked) - 14 day
treatment; variable daily
dosage: 75 mg plant material
21 patients with neuropathic
pain
Significant pain reduction. Improved
sleep and reduced anxiety
Table 3. Studies on multiple sclerosis
Study
Country
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Zajicek et
al. (2013)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
THC (oral) - 36 month
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 28 mg THC
493 patients with progressive
MS
No overall treatment effect on
clinical disease progression
Corey-
Bloom et al.
(2012)
United
States
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
Cannabis (smoked) - 3 day
treatment; 4 % THC, 800 mg
plant material
30 patients with MS and
spasticity
Significant reduction in spasticity and
pain
Zajicek et
al. (2012)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Cannabis extract (oral) - 12
week treatment; maximum
daily dosage: 25 mg THC
279 patients with stable MS
Significant reduction in muscle
stiffness
Notcutt et
al. (2012)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 1 week
baseline open-label treatment
+ 4 week double-blind
treatment; variable dosage
36 patients with MS
receiving benefits from using
Sativex for spasticity for at
least 12 weeks
Significant difference in time to
treatment withdrawal in favor of
Sativex
Novotna et
al. (2011)
Czech
Republic
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 4 week
single-blind treatment + 12
week double-blind treatment;
maximum daily dosage: 12
sprays
241 patients with MS and
spasticity
Significant reduction in spasticity in
patients showing adequate response to
Sativex in initial study phase
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12 Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016
Collin et al.
(2010)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 14
week treatment; maximum
daily dosage: 24 sprays
337 patients with MS and
spasticity
Significant reduction in treatment-
resistant spasticity
Kavia et al.
(2010)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 8 week
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 48 sprays
135 patients with MS and
overactive bladder
No significant reduction in number of
urinary incontinence episodes.
Beneficial effects on other bladder
symptoms
Table 4. Studies on irritable bowel syndrome
Study
Country
Indication
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Wong et al.
(2012)
United States
Colonic transit in
IBS
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups
study
THC (oral) - 2 day treatment;
daily dosage: 5 mg or 10 mg
THC (twice daily)
36 patients with IBS
No significant effects on gut transit
Klooker et
al. (2011)
The
Netherlands
Rectal sensitivity in
IBS
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
THC (oral) - single
administration; maximum
dosage: 10 mg THC
10 patients with IBS; 12
healthy controls
No significant effects of THC on
visceral hypersensitivity
Wong et al.
(2011)
United States
Colonic motility
and sensation in
IBS
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups
study
THC (oral) - single
administration; 2.5 mg or 5
mg THC
75 patients with IBS
Reduction in fasting colonic motility in
subgroup of patients
Table 5. Studies on Crohn's disease
Study
Country
Indication
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Naftali et al.
(2013)
Israel
Pain in Crohn’s
disease
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups
study
Cannabis (smoked) - 8 week
treatment; daily dosage: 115
mg THC
21 patients with Crohn's
disease
Cannabis produced significant clinical
benefits to 10 of 11 patients with active
Crohn’s disease. Induction of
remission was not achieved
Kowal, Hazekamp & Grotenhermen
Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016 13
Table 6. Studies on appetite and chemosensory perception
Study
Country
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Riggs et al.
(2012)
United
States
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
Cannabis (smoked) - 10 day
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: four 8% THC
cigarettes
7 patients with HIV infection
Significant alterations in appetite
hormones
Brisbois et
al. (2011)
Canada
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
THC (oral) - 18 day
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 20 mg THC
21 cancer patients with
chemosensory alterations
Significant improvement of
chemosensory perception and appetite
Table 7. Studies on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
Study
Country
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Duran et al.
(2010)
Spain
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 4 day
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 48 sprays
16 cancer patients with
CINV
Significantly improved protection
against delayed CINV when added to
standard antiemetic therapy
Table 8. Studies on pulmonary disease
Study
Country
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Pickering et
al. (2011)
United
Kingdom
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
Sativex (sublingual) - single
administration; maximum
dosage: 4 sprays
4 patients with COPD; 5
healthy controls
No reduction in breathlessness, but
reduction in unpleasantness of
symptoms
Table 9. Studies on cannabis dependence
Study
Country
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Allsop et al.
(2014)
Australia
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
Sativex (sublingual) - 6 day
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 86.4 mg THC, 80 mg
CBD
51 patients with DSM-IV-
TR cannabis dependence
Significant reduction in severity and
time course of cannabis withdrawal
symptoms
Review
14 Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016
Levin et al.
(2011)
United
States
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
THC (oral) - 12 week
treatment; maximum daily
dosage: 40 mg THC
156 patients with DSM-IV-
TR cannabis dependence
Significant improvement in treatment
retention and withdrawal symptoms
Table 10. Studies on anxiety
Study
Country
Indication
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Das et al.
(2013)
United
Kingdom
Fear extinction and
consolidation
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups
study
CBD (vaporized) - single
administration; 32 mg CBD
48 healthy subjects
CBD administered post-extinction
enhanced consolidation of extinction.
No acute effects of CBD were found
on extinction
Bergamaschi
et al. (2011)
Brazil
Anxiety associated
with public
speaking
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups
study
CBD (oral) - single
administration; 600 mg
CBD
24 patients with SAD; 12
healthy controls
Significant reduction in anxiety,
discomfort and cognitive impairment
Crippa et al.
(2011)
Brazil
rCBF in social
anxiety
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, crossover study
CBD (oral) - single
administration; 400 mg
CBD
10 patients with SAD
Reduction in anxiety associated with
altered activity in limbic and
paralimbic brain areas
Table 11. Studies on psychosis
Study
Country
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Leweke et
al. (2012)
Germany
Active-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
CBD (oral) vs. amisulpride -
4 week treatment; maximum
daily dosage: 800 mg CBD
42 patients with DSM-IV-
TR schizophrenia
Significant antipsychotic effects of
CBD
Table 12. Studies on Parkinson's disease
Study
Country
Type of study
Study medication
Subjects
Efficacy
Chagas et
al. (2014)
Brazil
Placebo-controlled, double-
blind, between-groups study
CBD (oral) - 6 week
treatment; daily dosage: 75
mg or 300 mg CBD
21 patients with idiopathic
PD
Significant improvement in well-being.
No effects on motor functioning or
neuroprotection
Kowal, Hazekamp & Grotenhermen
Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016 15
pronounced cognitive impairment, discomfort, and
alertness, in comparison with the untreated control
group. In contrast, CBD significantly decreased
anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort during
speech performance in SA patients. Moreover, CBD
led to a significant reduction in anticipatory speech
alert. In general, similar effects were observed both in
the CBD-SA group, as well as in the healthy volunteer
condition. It was concluded that a single dose of CBD
can decrease the anxiety induced by SPST in SA
patients, suggesting a beneficial effect of the drug on
fear of speaking in public. No AEs were observed,
which is in line with other studies using higher doses of
CBD.
9.2. Inhaled CBD
In an experiment with 48 healthy participants
who underwent a fear-conditioning test CBD enhanced
consolidation of subsequent fear extinction learning
and thus may be helpful in anxiety disorders (Das et al.
2013). Participants received a single dose of 32 mg
vaporized CBD either before or after extinction in a
between-group design. Successful fear conditioning
and extinction were found in both treatment groups.
CBD given post-extinction enhanced memory
consolidation of extinction learning. No acute effects
of CBD were found on extinction. There were no
adverse events reported.
10. Psychosis
10.1. Oral CBD
Leweke et al. (2012) conducted an active-
controlled between-group study into the effects of oral
CBD on symptoms of psychosis in DSM-IV-
TR schizophrenia patients. A total of 42 subjects were
administered daily doses of either 800 mg oral CBD or
amisulpride (a dopamine receptor antagonist) for the
period of 4 weeks (starting with a dose of 200 mg and
titrating up in the first week). The main measures
included the scores of the Brief Psychiatric Rating
Scale (BPRS) and Positive and Negative Symptoms
Scale (PANSS), which were administered at baseline,
and at day 14 and day 28 of treatment. Both groups
were found to display significant enhancements in
clinical symptoms, while CBD was found not to
produce side-effects typical of amisulpride. Moreover,
the decrease in psychotic symptoms following CBD
administration was associated with an increase in
serum anandamide levels. In sum, the authors
suggested that the inhibition of anandamide
deactivation might play a role in the antipsychotic
impact of CBD, potentially highlighting a new
mechanism for treating schizophrenia.
11. Parkinson's disease
11.1. Oral CBD
One between-group investigation into the
effectiveness of CBD for treating Parkinson's disease
(PD) included 21 patients with PD without dementia or
comorbid psychiatric disorders (Chagas et al. 2014).
Three groups of 7 subjects each received either
placebo, 75 mg, or 300 mg of oral CBD per day for a
period of 6 weeks. Evaluations were done at baseline
and in the last week of the dosage regimen. The main
variables of interest were scores regarding motor and
general symptoms (UPDRS), well-being and quality of
life (PDQ-39), and potential neuroprotective effects
(BDNF and H1-MRS). The 300 mg CBD group was
found to differ significantly from placebo only in case
of the PDQ-39. It was concluded that CBD has the
potential to enhance the quality of life of PD patients
without psychiatric comorbidities, however, no
neuroprotective or motor effects of CBD were found.
There were no observed AEs.
Discussion on the state of cannabis research in
medicine
In recent years, the medical use of herbal
cannabis has gained unprecedented attention
worldwide. Despite the fact that limited clinical data is
available for most medical indications, multiple
countries have introduced legislation, and sometimes
entire government supported programs, to provide
patients access to cannabis-based medicine. The
Netherlands, Canada and Israel have had such
programs already for many years, while Australia,
Uruguay, Chile, Jamaica, Czech Republic, Croatia,
Italy and Germany are just a few of the more recent
examples. In other countries such as Spain and
Portugal patients may use the national laws, which
allow possession of cannabis for personal use to enable
self-medication.
Given the limited clinical research on cannabis
and cannabinoids in many indications, patients,
physicians, scientists and policy-makers in many
countries alike struggle with the task to make
responsible choices regarding administration forms,
dosing regimen, cannabis botanical variety, and long-
term effects. Further properly designed clinical trials
are needed to provide more information on these
questions.
What makes cannabinoids particularly
fascinating is the wide range of possible therapeutic
effects they are claimed to have. Currently, cannabis
and cannabinoids are being used by patients for
treatment of anything ranging from pain, cancer and
epilepsy, to sleep, depression and anxiety, from
attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
autism, cluster headaches and Crohn's disease to
irritable bowel syndrome, restless legs syndrome and
Tourette‘s syndrome, (Grotenhermen et al. 2015;
Hazekamp et al. 2013). But despite the major promise
these compounds seem to hold, in the period 2010-
2014 (see Table 1) significant clinical data has only
been added for multiple sclerosis (1515 patients in
total) and chronic pain (1211 patients). Compared to
Review
16 Cannabinoids Vol 11, Special Issue February 20, 2016
our previous review of the period 2005-2009
(Hazekamp and Grotenhermen 2010) an increase can
be observed mainly in the number of patients included
in pain trials. Consequently, it seems that the
investigation of the effects of cannabinoids on different
types of chronic pain (central and peripheral
neuropathic pain, cancer pain, etc.) is currently of
major interest to the cannabinoid research field. Indeed,
all cannabinoid-based drugs covered in this review
have been studied in at least one trial addressing some
type of pain. Interestingly, surveys performed among
medicinal cannabis users usually indicate pain as the
main indication for which cannabis is used (Hazekamp
and Pappas 2014).
It has recently been suggested that THC may
target the affective quality of pain, instead of simply
reducing pain intensity and hyperalgesia (de Vries et al.
2014). If such is the case, it would seem interesting to
also explore the analgesic potential of CBD - a
cannabinoid not commonly associated with pain
reduction. After all, aside of the anxiolytic effects
discussed in this review (Bergamaschi et al. 2011;
Crippa et al. 2011; Das et al. 2013), CBD has been
suggested to affect emotional processing through
modulation of the activity of the anterior cingulate
cortex (Kowal et al. 2013), and enhance emotional
facial recognition (Hindocha et al. 2015). As a result,
such emotion-regulating properties of CBD allow us to
speculate whether this cannabinoid may also be
beneficial in targeting the affective qualities of pain.
Possibly, it may prove to modulate the effects of THC
in this regard.
Potential interactions between THC and CBD
is only one example to show the complexity of
performing studies on cannabinoid-based drugs -
especially those containing whole-plant cannabis
extracts. Evidence indicates that the synergy of
different compounds present in cannabis defines the
final effect of the drug in various aspects (Russo 2011).
Consequently, researchers, patients and physicians
should keep in mind the complete composition of the
cannabinoid-based drug that they are interested in - not
only the amounts of specific cannabinoids such as THC
or CBD. Possibly, subtle differences in composition
may significantly affect the usefulness of the drug in
treating specific medical conditions.
Conclusion
By providing a clear overview of the design,
outcomes and side effects of clinical trials performed
with cannabis and cannabinoids, this review hopes to
inspire the development of more and better trials in the
future. Currently, the clinical researchers’ toolbox
contains a wide range of cannabinoid-based drugs,
including single cannabinoids (Marinol, Dronabinol,
CBD), plant-based extracts (Sativex, Cannador), herbal
cannabis (NIDA, Bedrocan), and synthetic analogues
(Nabilone, various others not covered in this review).
Taken together, clinical experiences with these
compounds may provide us further knowledge on the
indications for cannabinoid based medicines.
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... A systematic review of cannabis use for any indication concluded that cannabis is a promising medication for pain as well as several other conditions/symptoms. 8 For example, a controlled clinical trial found that vapourized cannabis improves neuropathic pain, 9 and several studies have investigated the role of cannabis in fibromyalgia 10 and spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. 11 Additionally, cannabis use may play a role in reducing opioid, alcohol and illicit drug use among patients with pain. ...
... Of the 33 included studies, 5 were RCTs, 13,24,34,35,50 1 was a nonrandomized intervention study, 29 8 were case reports/ case series, 30,31,36-39,51,52 6 were surveys, 25-28,53,54 1 was a qualitative study 54 and 12 were systematic reviews. 32,33,40,[41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49] Of the 12 systematic reviews, 9 included RCTs, 32,41-47,49 2 included nonrandomized studies 33,40 and 1 review 48 was unclear on the design of the included studies. ...
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Background: Medical cannabis use is an emerging topic of interest in orthopedics. Although there is a large amount of literature on medical cannabis use for managing various types of pain, few studies have focused on orthopedic conditions. There is little high-quality evidence in core orthopedic areas. The objective of this study was to summarize the literature on the efficacy of cannabis use for pain related to orthopedic conditions. Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature on the use of cannabinoids for pain management in core orthopedic conditions. Two independent reviewers extracted information on reporting quality, risk of bias, drugs, population, control, duration of study, pain outcomes and the authors’ conclusions regarding efficacy for pain outcomes. Results: We identified 33 orthopedic studies, including 21 primary studies and 12 reviews. Study quality was generally low to moderate. Six of the included studies had a control group and 15 were noncontrolled studies. Methodologies, drugs and protocols of administration varied greatly across studies. Study conclusions were generally positive in noncontrolled studies and mixed in controlled studies. Studies using higher doses tended to conclude that cannabis use was effective, but the potential for harmful effects may also be increased with higher doses. Conclusion: Variability in the methodologies used in cannabis research makes it challenging to draw conclusions about dosing, routes and frequency of administration. Most of the existing evidence suggests that medical cannabis use is effective, but this efficacy has been demonstrated only when either there is no comparator or cannabis is compared with placebo. Studies using an active comparator have not demonstrated efficacy. Future research should focus on improving study reporting and methodologic quality so that protocols that optimize pain control while minimizing harmful effects can be determined.
... A number of non-clinical and clinical studies have been carried out in the last decades, providing scientific evidence of the effectiveness of C. sativa and/or its major cannabinoids in the treatment of some pathological conditions. In this regard, one can highlight the use of cannabidiol (CBD) to reduce seizures in patients with refractory epilepsy when added to conventional anti-epileptic drugs, especially in children with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes (Stockings et al. 2018; European Medicines Agency 2019; Devinsky et al. 2017;Berkovic 2017); as well as on the use of an association of tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ 9 -THC) and CBD to reduce multiple sclerosis-related spasticity and neuropathic pain (Whiting et al. 2015;Kowal et al. 2016). There is also weak evidence of the efficacy of Δ 9 -THC and analogs for the relief of nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy and appetite stimulation in HIV-positive patients (Whiting et al. 2015; European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 2018b; Chow et al. 2020). ...
... The aforementioned advances in knowledge of cannabis' therapeutic properties have met interests in the economic exploitation of the potential of cannabis-based medical products, motivating debates about the revision of the previously imposed legal restrictions (Pisanti and Bifulco 2017;Kalant and Porath-waller 2016;Mackay and Phillips 2016;Kowal et al. 2016). In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) recommended the removal of cannabis and cannabis resin from schedule IV of the 1961 UN convention, while maintaining them in schedule I (Expert Committee on Drug Dependence 2019). ...
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Cannabis sativa has accompanied humankind since ancient times, permeating the most diverse aspects of its existence, among which the search for health promotion and well-being stands out. Nevertheless, during the twentieth century, a series of restrictions and controls have been adopted internationally to prevent the abusive use of this species. Despite that, there has been an increased demand for the medical use of cannabis and its derivatives in the last few decades, especially among patients with debilitating conditions for which the existing therapeutic alternatives are limited. Accordingly, several countries have adopted regulatory strategies to allow access to cannabis-based products. This study aimed to overview the existing regulatory frameworks for medical cannabis around the world, focusing on the current Brazilian scenario. In addition to supply and access regulation aspects, some quality-related issues regarding cannabis-based pharmaceutical products were addressed, with emphasis on risks to patients. The literature research was performed between October 2020 and March 2021. According to the retrieved information, by the time the data collection was completed, thirty-six countries had already implemented regulatory frameworks regarding medical cannabis, and sixteen countries had models under development or in the process of implementation. The characteristics of the assessed regulatory strategies vary considerably from country to country, reflecting sociocultural, historical, and political aspects. Among the key aspects that differed between the assessed models, one can highlight the type of cannabis products that are made available and the technical requirements applied to them, as well as the possible access mechanisms. Different supply regulation strategies were also observed regarding cannabis cultivation, production licensing, and distribution mechanisms. In Brazil, an evolution of the regulatory framework has been noticeable since 2015, even though pending points are still to be addressed, among which are the species’ cultivation and the access to it for scientific research purposes. Constructing a regulatory model which provides access to good quality cannabis-based medicines that may meet the patient’s needs is still a challenge in the coming years, requiring the engagement of various stakeholders, including regulators, members of the academic community, prescribing professionals, and patients.
... We did not assess adverse effects as they have been extensively investigated in earlier studies. 63,[87][88][89] The reported adverse effects in the included studies were generally mild. ...
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Background: Cannabinoids have been suggested to alleviate frequently experienced symptoms of reduced mental well-being such as anxiety and depression. Mental well-being is an important subdomain of health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Reducing symptoms and maintaining HRQoL are particularly important in malignant primary brain tumor patients, as treatment options are often noncurative and prognosis remains poor. These patients frequently report unprescribed cannabinoid use, presumably for symptom relieve. As studies on brain tumor patients specifically are lacking, we performed a meta-analysis of the current evidence on can-nabinoid efficacy on HRQoL and mental well-being in oncological and neurological patients. Methods: We performed a systematic PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, and Web of Science search according to PRISMA guidelines on August 2 and 3, 2021. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that assessed the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) on general HRQoL and mental well-being. Pooled effect sizes were calculated using Hedges g. Risk of bias of included studies was assessed using Cochrane's Risk of Bias tool. Results: We included 17 studies: 4 in oncology and 13 in central nervous system (CNS) disease. Meta-analysis showed no effect of cannabinoids on general HRQoL (g = À0.02 confidence interval [95% CI À0.11 to 0.06]; p = 0.57) or mental well-being (g = À0.02 [95% CI À0.16 to 0.13]; p = 0.81). Conclusions: RCTs in patients with cancer or CNS disease showed no effect of cannabinoids on HRQoL or mental well-being. However, studies were clinically heterogeneous and since many glioma patients currently frequently use cannabinoids, future studies are necessary to evaluate its value in this specific population.
... Possible benefits include a wide range of medical applications [4,5]. Evidence from randomized trials supports the therapeutic use of cannabis-based medicines in the treatment of chronic pain, pediatric epilepsy, and other conditions [6][7][8][9][10][11][12]. Nevertheless, cannabis use is not without potential harms. ...
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Since 1996, 33 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and all Canadian provinces have passed legislation legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Another 13 states allow use of low delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol/high cannabidiol products for medical reasons in some situations or as a legal defense to its use. Yet cannabis remains a Schedule I Controlled Substance, impacting not only the legality of a healthcare provider's prescription of cannabis outside of a medical marijuana program, but also the accessibility of marijuana available for research. The classification of cannabis as a Schedule I Controlled Substance therefore directly limits the amount of moderate- to high-quality human evidence regarding the effectiveness of cannabis for certain conditions, dosage, adverse effects, or safety. Regardless of the limited evidence, individuals are using medical cannabis products more frequently, and nurses are left without evidence-based, clinical resources when caring for them. To address this lack of resources, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Board of Directors appointed members to the Medical Marijuana Nursing Guidelines Committee to develop recommendations to guide nurses’ care of patients using medical marijuana. This article presents their recommendations, which were published in July 2018, and various updates since that publication.
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Book chapter published in the famous Handbook of Cannabis (2016) by Roger Pertwee. This was chapter 18 and it focused on self-medication of patients with cannabis: their motivations, obstacles, preferences and what we can learn from that.
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Acute administration of the primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis, Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), impairs human facial affect recognition, implicating the endocannabinoid system in emotional processing. Another main constituent of cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), has seemingly opposite functional effects on the brain. This study aimed to determine the effects of THC and CBD, both alone and in combination on emotional facial affect recognition. 48 volunteers, selected for high and low frequency of cannabis use and schizotypy, were administered, THC (8mg), CBD (16mg), THC+CBD (8mg+16mg) and placebo, by inhalation, in a 4-way, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover design. They completed an emotional facial affect recognition task including fearful, angry, happy, sad, surprise and disgust faces varying in intensity from 20% to 100%. A visual analogue scale (VAS) of feeling 'stoned' was also completed. In comparison to placebo, CBD improved emotional facial affect recognition at 60% emotional intensity; THC was detrimental to the recognition of ambiguous faces of 40% intensity. The combination of THC+CBD produced no impairment. Relative to placebo, both THC alone and combined THC+CBD equally increased feelings of being 'stoned'. CBD did not influence feelings of 'stoned'. No effects of frequency of use or schizotypy were found. In conclusion, CBD improves recognition of emotional facial affect and attenuates the impairment induced by THC. This is the first human study examining the effects of different cannabinoids on emotional processing. It provides preliminary evidence that different pharmacological agents acting upon the endocannabinoid system can both improve and impair recognition of emotional faces. Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier B.V.
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Introduction: Parkinson's disease (PD) has a progressive course and is characterized by the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Although no neuroprotective treatments for PD have been found to date, the endocannabinoid system has emerged as a promising target. Methods: From a sample of 119 patients consecutively evaluated in a specialized movement disorders outpatient clinic, we selected 21 PD patients without dementia or comorbid psychiatric conditions. Participants were assigned to three groups of seven subjects each who were treated with placebo, cannabidiol (CBD) 75 mg/day or CBD 300 mg/day. One week before the trial and in the last week of treatment participants were assessed in respect to (i) motor and general symptoms score (UPDRS); (ii) well-being and quality of life (PDQ-39); and (iii) possible neuroprotective effects (BDNF and H(1)-MRS). Results: We found no statistically significant differences in UPDRS scores, plasma BDNF levels or H(1)-MRS measures. However, the groups treated with placebo and CBD 300 mg/day had significantly different mean total scores in the PDQ-39 (p = 0.05). Conclusions: Our findings point to a possible effect of CBD in improving quality of life measures in PD patients with no psychiatric comorbidities; however, studies with larger samples and specific objectives are required before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
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Laboratory evidence has shown that cannabinoids might have a neuroprotective action. We investigated whether oral dronabinol (Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol) might slow the course of progressive multiple sclerosis.
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Introduction: Although medicinal cannabis has been used for many centuries, the therapeutic potential of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC; international non-proprietary name = dronabinol) in current pain management remains unclear. Several pharmaceutical products with defined natural or synthesized Δ9-THC content have been developed, resulting in increasing numbers of clinical trials investigating the analgesic efficacy of dronabinol in various pain conditions. Different underlying pain mechanisms, including sensitization of nociceptive sensory pathways and alterations in cognitive and autonomic processing, might explain the varying analgesic effects of dronabinol in chronic pain states. Areas covered: The pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and mechanisms of action of products with a defined dronabinol content are summarized. Additionally, randomized clinical trials investigating the analgesic efficacy of pharmaceutical cannabis based products are reviewed for the treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain. Expert opinion: We suggest a mechanism-based approach beyond measurement of subjective pain relief to evaluate the therapeutic potential of dronabinol in chronic pain management. Development of objective mechanistic diagnostic biomarkers reflecting altered sensory and cognitive processing in the brain is essential to evaluate dronabinol induced analgesia, and to permit identification of responders and/or non-responders to dronabinol treatment.
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Laboratory evidence has shown that cannabinoids might have a neuroprotective action. We investigated whether oral dronabinol (Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol) might slow the course of progressive multiple sclerosis. In this multicentre, parallel, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we recruited patients aged 18-65 years with primary or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis from 27 UK neurology or rehabilitation departments. Patients were randomly assigned (2:1) to receive dronabinol or placebo for 36 months; randomisation was by stochastic minimisation, using a computer-generated randomisation sequence, balanced according to expanded disability status scale (EDSS) score, centre, and disease type. Maximum dose was 28 mg per day, titrated against bodyweight and adverse effects. Primary outcomes were EDSS score progression (masked assessor, time to progression of ≥1 point from a baseline score of 4·0-5·0 or ≥0·5 points from a baseline score of ≥5·5, confirmed after 6 months) and change from baseline in the physical impact subscale of the 29-item multiple sclerosis impact scale (MSIS-29-PHYS). All patients who received at least one dose of study drug were included in the intention-to-treat analyses. This trial is registered as an International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial (ISRCTN 62942668). Of the 498 patients randomly assigned to a treatment group, 329 received at least one dose of dronabinol and 164 received at least one dose of placebo (five did not receive the allocated intervention). 145 patients in the dronabinol group had EDSS score progression (0·24 first progression events per patient-year; crude rate) compared with 73 in the placebo group (0·23 first progression events per patient-year; crude rate); HR for prespecified primary analysis was 0·92 (95% CI 0·68-1·23; p=0·57). Mean yearly change in MSIS-29-PHYS score was 0·62 points (SD 3·29) in the dronabinol group versus 1·03 points (3·74) in the placebo group. Primary analysis with a multilevel model gave an estimated between-group difference (dronabinol-placebo) of -0·9 points (95% CI -2·0 to 0·2). We noted no serious safety concerns (114 [35%] patients in the dronabinol group had at least one serious adverse event, compared with 46 [28%] in the placebo group). Our results show that dronabinol has no overall effect on the progression of multiple sclerosis in the progressive phase. The findings have implications for the design of future studies of progressive multiple sclerosis, because lower than expected progression rates might have affected our ability to detect clinical change. UK Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Multiple Sclerosis Trust.
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