Dramatic efficacy of cannabidiol on refractory chronic pain in an adolescent with sickle cell disease

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“Here, we report a dramatic efficacy of cannabidiol in an adolescent with SCD suffering from chronic pain refractory to other analgesics, with complete regression of chronic pain and rapid plasma histamine level normalization after treatment.”


“In conclusion, we report here for the first time a case of refractory chronic pain with dramatic improvement after CBD treatment in an adolescent with SCD. The CBD oral solution Epidiolex has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration since June 2018 and by the European Medicine Agency since January 2023 for management of refractory epilepsy. As it seems to be a well-tolerated drug, CBD could represent a promising therapeutic perspective for patients with SCD suffering from chronic pain.”


Daily Cannabis Users with Sickle Cell Disease Show Fewer Admissions than Others with Similar Pain Complaints

View details for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research cover image “Previous studies have shown that cannabis use is common in adults with sickle cell disease (SCD), and that many patients report using cannabis to treat pain.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study of adults with SCD and compared daily users of cannabis with others using validated patient-reported measures of pain and quality of life as well as opioid and health care utilization.

Results: Daily cannabis users with SCD had worse pain episode severity scores than others (56.7 vs. 48.8, p=0.02) yet had 1.8 fewer annual admissions (p=0.01) and 1.2 fewer annual emergency room (ER) visits (p=0.01), and similar amounts of opioids dispensed to others after matching for age, gender, SCD genotype, hydroxyurea use, and pain impact scores.

Conclusions: We show that people with SCD with more severe pain crisis are more likely to use daily cannabis, yet have lower rates of hospital admission and ER use as compared with others with similar disease severity and pain impact. Randomized controlled trials should be performed.”


“We posit that people with SCD with severe pain are more likely to use daily cannabis due to its analgesic properties. This would explain why daily users reported more severe pain crises yet had fewer admissions and ER visits after propensity matching was performed.”


Marijuana Use in Adults Living with Sickle Cell Disease.

Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research cover image

“Introduction: Legal access to marijuana, most frequently as “medical marijuana,” is becoming more common in the United States, but most states do not specify sickle cell disease as a qualifying condition. We were aware that some of our patients living with sickle cell disease used illicit marijuana, and we sought more information about this.

Results: Among 58 patients surveyed, 42% reported marijuana use within the past 2 years. Among users, most endorsed five medicinal indications; a minority reported recreational use. Among 57 patients who had at least one urine drug test, 18% tested positive for cannabinoids only, 12% tested positive for cocaine and/or phencyclidine only, and 5% tested positive for both cannabinoids and cocaine/phencyclidine. Subsequent to these studies, sickle cell disease became a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in our state. In the interval ∼1.5 years, 44 patients have requested certification.

Conclusion: Our findings and those of others create a rationale for research into the possible therapeutic effects of marijuana or cannabinoids, the presumed active constituents of marijuana, in sickle cell disease. Explicit inclusion of sickle cell disease as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana might reduce illicit marijuana use and related risks and costs to both persons living with sickle cell disease and society.”

ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM: A multi-facet therapeutic target.

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“Cannabis sativa is also popularly known as marijuana. It is being cultivated and used by man for recreational and medicinal purposes from many centuries.

Study of cannabinoids was at bay for very long time and its therapeutic value could not be adequately harnessed due to its legal status as proscribed drug in most of the countries.

The research of drugs acting on endocannabinoid system has seen many ups and down in recent past. Presently, it is known that endocannabinoids has role in pathology of many disorders and they also serve “protective role” in many medical conditions.

Several diseases like emesis, pain, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, anorexia, epilepsy, glaucoma, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome related diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome could possibly be treated by drugs modulating endocannabinoid system.

Presently, cannabinoid receptor agonists like nabilone and dronabinol are used for reducing the chemotherapy induced vomiting. Sativex (cannabidiol and THC combination) is approved in the UK, Spain and New Zealand to treat spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. In US it is under investigation for cancer pain, another drug Epidiolex (cannabidiol) is also under investigation in US for childhood seizures. Rimonabant, CB1 receptor antagonist appeared as a promising anti-obesity drug during clinical trials but it also exhibited remarkable psychiatric side effect profile. Due to which the US Food and Drug Administration did not approve Rimonabant in US. It sale was also suspended across the EU in 2008.

Recent discontinuation of clinical trial related to FAAH inhibitor due to occurrence of serious adverse events in the participating subjects could be discouraging for the research fraternity. Despite of some mishaps in clinical trials related to drugs acting on endocannabinoid system, still lot of research is being carried out to explore and establish the therapeutic targets for both cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists.

One challenge is to develop drugs that target only cannabinoid receptors in a particular tissue and another is to invent drugs that acts selectively on cannabinoid receptors located outside the blood brain barrier. Besides this, development of the suitable dosage forms with maximum efficacy and minimum adverse effects is also warranted.

Another angle to be introspected for therapeutic abilities of this group of drugs is non-CB1 and non-CB2 receptor targets for cannabinoids.

In order to successfully exploit the therapeutic potential of endocannabinoid system, it is imperative to further characterize the endocannabinoid system in terms of identification of the exact cellular location of cannabinoid receptors and their role as “protective” and “disease inducing substance”, time-dependent changes in the expression of cannabinoid receptors.”


Quantification of pain in sickle mice using facial expressions and body measurements.

“Pain is a hallmark feature of sickle cell disease (SCD). Subjects typically quantify pain by themselves, which can be biased by other factors leading to overtreatment or under-treatment. Reliable and accurate quantification of pain, in real time, might enable to provide appropriate levels of analgesic treatment.

The mouse grimace scale (MGS), a standardized behavioral coding system with high accuracy and reliability has been used to quantify varied types of pain. We hypothesized that addition of the objective parameters of body length and back curvature will strengthen the reproducibility of MGS.

We examined MGS scores and body length and back curvature of transgenic BERK sickle and control mice following cold treatment or following treatment with analgesic cannabinoid CP55,940. We observed that sickle mice demonstrated decreased length and increased back curvature in response to cold. These observations correlate with changes in facial expression for the MGS score.

CP55,940 treatment of sickle mice showed an increase in body length and a decrease in back curvature concordant with MGS scores indicative of an analgesic effect. Thus, body parameters combined with facial expressions may provide a quantifiable unbiased method for objective measure of pain in SCD.”



Cannabinoid receptor-specific mechanisms to ameliorate pain in sickle cell anemia via inhibition of mast cell activation and neurogenic inflammation.

“Sickle cell anaemia is a manifestation of a single point mutation in haemoglobin, but inflammation and pain are the insignia of this disease which can start in infancy and continue throughout life.

Earlier studies showed that mast cell activation contributes to neurogenic inflammation and pain in sickle mice.

Morphine is the common analgesic treatment but also remains a major challenge due to the side effects and ability to activate mast cells. Therefore, we examined the cannabinoid receptor-specific mechanisms to ameliorate mast cell activation, neurogenic inflammation and hyperalgesia, using HbSS-BERK sickle and cannabinoid receptor 2 deleted sickle mice.

We show that cannabinoids ameliorate mast cell activation, inflammation and neurogenic inflammation in sickle mice via both cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2.

Thus, cannabinoids influence systemic and neural mechanisms, ameliorating the disease pathobiology and hyperalgesia in sickle mice.

This study provides a “proof of principle” for the potential of cannabinoid/cannabinoid receptor-based therapeutics to treat several manifestations of sickle cell anaemia.”

Cannibinoids offer novel treatment for pain in sickle cell disease, study suggests

ScienceDaily: Your source for the latest research news

“Researchers have discovered that cannibinoids offer a novel approach to ease the chronic and acute pain caused by sickle cell disease.

“This paper provides proof that we can use other classifications of drugs to treat pain in patients with sickle cell disease,” Gupta said.

“Cannibinoids offer great promise in the treatment of chronic and acute pain, and they’re effective in much lower amounts than opioids — the only currently approved treatment for this disease.”


Pain-related behaviors and neurochemical alterations in mice expressing sickle hemoglobin: modulation by cannabinoids… Our observations in these mice suggest that both systemically administered and locally applied cannabinoids may be beneficial in treating pain in SCD.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913454/

Vaporized Cannabis for Chronic Pain Associated With Sickle Cell Disease (Cannabis-SCD) -ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01771731

“Cannabinoid-Based Therapy and Approaches to Quantify Pain in Sickle Cell Disease.

Our primary objective is to assess whether inhaling vaporized cannabis ameliorates chronic pain in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). As these patients will all be on chronic opioid analgesics, the investigators will also assess the possible synergistic affect between inhaled cannabis and opioids.

The investigators will also assess the clinical safety of the concomitant use of cannabinoids and these opioids in patients with SCD by monitoring the short-term side effects associated with combined therapy.

Finally, the investigators will evaluate the short-term effects of inhaled cannabis on markers of inflammation and disease progression in patients with SCD.

Hypotheses are as follows:

  1. Inhaled cannabis will significantly reduce chronic pain in patients with SCD.
  2. Inhaled cannabis will significantly alter the short-term side effects experienced by patients who take opioids for SCD.
  3. Inhaled cannabis will significantly alter markers of inflammation and disease progression in patients with SCD compared to placebo.
Subjects will complete a 5-day pain diary prior to admission to the Clinical Research Center (CRC) to establish a baseline of pain. They will then be assigned to inhale either vaporized cannabis of mixed THC/CBD content (4.7% THC/5.1% CBD) or placebo cannabis (0% THC/0% CBD). Participants and personnel will be blinded as to assignment. Pain will be evaluated during the 5-day inpatient exposure. Participants will be asked to participate in two such 5-day sessions separated by at least a 2-week washout so that each will be exposed to the two experimental conditions.
Detailed Description:

This is a proof-of-principle investigation of the safety and potential effectiveness of inhaled vaporized cannabis when added to a stable analgesic regimen in sickle cell disease (SCD) patients with chronic pain. The study will be comprised of two 5-day intervention periods in the inpatient setting (the Clinical Research Center at SFGH), with completion of a 5-day daily pain diary prior to admission to establish an outpatient baseline. Participants will be randomly assigned, in double-blind fashion, to treatment with (A) vaporized cannabis with an approximately 1:1 ration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol or (B) vaporized placebo. Those who receive treatment A during the first admission will receive treatment B in the second, and those who receive treatment B during the first admission will receive treatment A in the second. The two admissions will be spaced at least 14 days apart.

On Day 1 of each admission, subjects will provide blood samples for baseline markers of inflammation and SCD disease progression. They will undergo assessments of pain, mood, and quality of life. At 12 pm on Day 1, they will inhale vaporized study agent (equivalent to 1 cannabis/placebo cigarette) using the Volcano® vaporizer; on Days 2-4 they will inhale study agent at 8 am, 2 pm, and 8 pm, and they will inhale their final dose on Day 5 at 8 am. Subjects will continue their pre-study analgesic regimen while in the study. If additional analgesia is required, supplemental therapy will be administered and the dose recorded. Pain measurements by visual analogue scale will be obtained every 2 hours while subjects are awake. On Day 5 a second set of blood samples for inflammation markers and disease progression will be obtained, and subjects will again complete pain, mood, and quality of life assessments.”


THC Can Manage Sickle Cell Disease

“Cannabinoids, the active ingredients in pot offer a new way to treat chronic and acute pain from sickle cell disease, ScienceDaily reports.

Currently the only treatment for the blood disease is opiods.

“Pain in SCD is described to be more intense than labor pain. The pain starts early in a patient’s life, often during infancy, and increases in severity with age.

[Cannibinoids are] effective in much lower amounts than opioids — the only currently approved treatment for this disease.”


Sickle Cell Pain May be Managed with Cannabis

“Can Medical Cannabis Help to Cure SCD?”

Sickle Cell Disease Pain May Be Managed 2

“Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a hereditary condition caused by a mutation in the haemoglobin gene, which leads to symptoms of anaemia, extreme pain, and organ damage if unmanaged.”

Sickle Cell Disease Pain May Be Managed 1

“Individuals suffering from SCD are far more likely to use cannabis than the general population, potentially for its analgesic properties.

In 2010, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the synthetic THC analogue CP 55,940 was as effective as morphine sulphate in treating SCD-related severe pain in transgenic mice expressing human sickle haemoglobin, and that it was effective at smaller doses than the opioid.

In 2011, a further paper submitted by the same researchers to Blood (the Journal of the American Association of Hematology) indicated that CP 55,940 ameliorated severe pain associated with the hypoxia/reoxygenation cycle. CP 55,940 is a full agonist of both CB receptors, and is thought to act as an antagonist at the GPR55 receptor.

As well as this, cannabis has been repeatedly shown to act as a vasodilator, which could in itself assist in easing the blockages caused by build-up of sickle cells…

SCD is a painful and debilitating disease, and the overall inefficacy of opioid treatments and resultant poor quality of life for many sufferers is an indication that our approach to it is far from perfect.

If cannabis is a good candidate to replace opioids, it should be implemented forthwith to prevent ongoing suffering for existing patients.”