Health-related quality of life in patients accessing medicinal cannabis in Australia: The QUEST initiative results of a 3-month follow-up observational study

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“Aims: Patients with chronic health conditions not responding to conventional treatment can access medicinal cannabis (MC) prescriptions from clinicians in Australia. We aimed to assess overall health-related quality of life (HRQL), pain, fatigue, sleep, anxiety, and depression in a large real-world sample of patients accessing prescribed medicinal cannabis. We hypothesized that all patient-reported outcomes (PROs) would improve from baseline to 3-months.

Methods: The QUEST Initiative is a large prospective multicenter study of patients with any chronic health condition newly prescribed medicinal cannabis between November 2020 and December 2021. Eligible patients were identified by 120 clinicians at medical centers across six Australian states. Consenting participants completed the EuroQol Group EQ-5D-5L health status questionnaire; European Organization for Research & Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life questionnaire (QLQ-C30); Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Short Forms in Fatigue and Sleep Disturbance, and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) before starting therapy, at 2-weeks titration, then monthly for 3-months.

Results: Of the 2762 consenting participants, 2327 completed baseline and at least one follow-up questionnaire. Ages ranged between 18-97 years (mean 51y; SD = 15.4), 62.8% were female. The most commonly treated conditions were chronic pain (n = 1598/2327; 68.7%), insomnia (n = 534/2327; 22.9%), generalized anxiety (n = 508/2327; 21.5%), and mixed anxiety and depression (n = 259/2327; 11%). Across the whole cohort both EQ-5D-5L utility scores and QLQ-C30 summary scores showed clinically meaningful improvement in HRQL from baseline to mean follow-up with d = 0.54 (95%CI:0.47 to 0.59) and d = 0.64 (95%CI:0.58 to 0.70) respectively; and clinically meaningful improvement in fatigue (d = 0.54; 95%CI:0.48 to 0.59). There was clinically meaningful reduction of pain for those with chronic pain (d = 0.65; 95%CI:0.57 to 0.72); significant improvements for those with moderate to extremely severe anxiety (X2 = 383; df = 4; p<0.001) and depression (X2 = 395; df = 4; p<0.001); and no changes in sleep disturbance.

Conclusions: We observed statistically significant, clinically meaningful improvements in overall HRQL and fatigue over the first 3-months in patients with chronic health conditions accessing prescribed medical cannabis. Anxiety, depression, and pain also improved over time, particularly for those with corresponding health conditions. The study continues to follow-up patients until 12-months to determine whether improvements in PROs are maintained long-term.”

“Short-term findings over 3-months indicate that patients prescribed MC in practice have improved HRQL and reduced fatigue. Patients experiencing anxiety, depression, or chronic pain also improved in those outcomes over 3-months, but no changes in sleep disturbance were observed in patients with sleep disorders.”

Cannabidiol acts as molecular switch in innate immune cells to promote the biosynthesis of inflammation-resolving lipid mediators

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“Cannabinoids are phytochemicals from cannabis with anti-inflammatory actions in immune cells. Lipid mediators (LM), produced from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), are potent regulators of the immune response and impact all stages of inflammation. How cannabinoids influence LM biosynthetic networks is unknown. Here, we reveal cannabidiol (CBD) as a potent LM class-switching agent that stimulates the production of specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) but suppresses pro-inflammatory eicosanoid biosynthesis. Detailed metabololipidomics analysis in human monocyte-derived macrophages showed that CBD (i) upregulates exotoxin-stimulated generation of SPMs, (ii) suppresses 5-lipoxygenase (LOX)-mediated leukotriene production, and (iii) strongly induces SPM and 12/15-LOX product formation in resting cells by stimulation of phospholipase A2-dependent PUFA release and through Ca2+-independent, allosteric 15-LOX-1 activation. Finally, in zymosan-induced murine peritonitis, CBD increased SPM and 12/15-LOX products and suppressed pro-inflammatory eicosanoid levels in vivo. Switching eicosanoid to SPM production is a plausible mode of action of CBD and a promising inflammation-resolving strategy.”

Cannabis Improves Clinical Outcomes and Quality of Life in Patients With Chronic Pouchitis

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“Many patients with ulcerative colitis after ileoanal pouch anastomosis report improvement of pouchitis with the use of cannabis. Nine patients with chronic pouchitis used 1 g/d of cannabis: 7 patients were male with average age 51 ± 16 years. Average partial pouchitis disease activity index were 11 (range 8-17), 6 (range 5-8), and 5 (range 4-8); endoscopic subscores were 7 .3 ± 2.3, 6 ± 1.1, and 4.4 ± 0.9; average bowel movements per day were 14 (range 8-20), 8 (range 2-13), and 10 (range 13-8); and quality of life increased from 72 ± 1 to 90 ± 16 and 97 ± 10 (P = 0.001) before cannabis treatment and after 8-12 and 52 weeks, respectively. No adverse events were reported.”

“In conclusion, cannabis use led to significant symptomatic improvement and better quality of life in this group of patients with refractory pouchitis.”

Quality of Life in Patients Receiving Medical Cannabis

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“Introduction: Medical cannabis has been used to relieve the symptoms of people with various chronic diseases. Despite of this, it has been stigmatized, even after its legalization in many countries.

Aim: The purpose of this study was to investigate the quality of life of patients receiving medical cannabis.

Material and method: One hundred patients receiving medical cannabis were given (a) a socio-demographic and clinical questionnaire, and (b) the SF-36 Health Survey scale for assessing quality of life.

Results: The majority of our patients who received medical cannabis to treat their neurological disorders (58%) reported decrease in their symptoms (96%), better energy and vitality (68%), ability to perform their professional duties (88%), and an improvement in sleeping and appetite (79% and 71%, respectively) after receiving medical cannabis. Our participants exhibited very few restrictions in activities due to emotional difficulties, a moderate general health status as well as moderate vitality and energy. Participants, who reported a longer period of receiving medical cannabis, reported statistically significant more energy and vitality (p = 0.000), but also better mental (p = 0.000) and general health status (p = 0.001). Furthermore, the majority of patients have disclosed medical cannabis use to their family members (85%) and enjoyed their support (93%), but they haven’t revealed their medication treatment to their social environment (81%).

Conclusions: Appropriate knowledge could significantly help health professionals in the field of planning and implementation of personalized nursing care in order to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes.”

An answered call for aid? Cannabinoid clinical framework for the opioid epidemic

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“Background: The opioid crisis continues in full force, as physicians and caregivers are desperate for resources to help patients with opioid use and chronic pain disorders find safer and more accessible non-opioid tools.

Main body: The purpose of this article is to review the current state of the opioid epidemic; the shifting picture of cannabinoids; and the research, policy, and current events that make opioid risk reduction an urgent public health challenge. The provided table contains an evidence-based clinical framework for the utilization of cannabinoids to treat patients with chronic pain who are dependent on opioids, seeking alternatives to opioids, and tapering opioids.

Conclusion: Based on a comprehensive review of the literature and epidemiological evidence to date, cannabinoids stand to be one of the most interesting, safe, and accessible tools available to attenuate the devastation resulting from the misuse and abuse of opioid narcotics. Considering the urgency of the opioid epidemic and broadening of cannabinoid accessibility amidst absent prescribing guidelines, the authors recommend use of this clinical framework in the contexts of both clinical research continuity and patient care.”

“Resistance to cannabis-based medicines for the opioid epidemic may have many origins, particularly the stigma associated with recreational cannabis use. That said, the evidence to date suggests that it is time for a sea change in the clinical approach to cannabis for pain management and OUD. Throughout the history of science and clinical medicine, there have been transformative changes that were initially considered heretical: hand hygiene as a means to prevent infection prior to germ theory, therapy for H. pylori to combat peptic ulcer disease, and even the genetic basis of cancer were all dismissed by their era’s established medical communities. Similarly, we face great resistance to the implementation of CBD and other cannabinoids for treatment-resistant chronic illnesses, despite the compelling evidence, strong overall safety profile, and urgent need. Many of our patients have already begun their own self-guided journey into pain management with cannabinoids and the burden is now on providers to consolidate the information available, conduct more rigorous research, form best practices, and implement guidelines that will inform both the field and those we care for without stigma.”

Cannabidiol and cannabigerol, non-psychotropic cannabinoids, as analgesics that effectively manage bone fracture pain and promote healing in mice

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“Bone fractures are among the most prevalent musculoskeletal injuries, and pain management is an essential part of fracture treatment. Fractures heal through an early inflammatory phase, followed by repair and remodelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are not recommended for fracture pain control as they potently inhibit the inflammatory phase and, thus, impair the healing. Opioids do not provide a better alternative for several reasons, including abuse potential. Accordingly, there is an unmet clinical need for analgesics that effectively ameliorate post-fracture pain without impeding the healing. Here, we investigated the analgesic efficacy of two non-psychotropic cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG), in a mouse model for tibial fracture. Mice with fractured tibiae exhibited increased sensitivity to mechanical, cold, and hot stimuli. Both CBD and CBG normalized pain sensitivity to all tested stimuli, and their analgesic effects were comparable to those of the NSAIDs. Interestingly, CBD and CBG promoted bone healing via multiple mechanisms during the early and late phases. During the early inflammatory phase, both cannabinoids increased the abundance of periosteal bone progenitors in the healing hematoma and promoted the osteogenic commitment of these progenitors. During the later phases of healing, CBD and CBG accelerated the fibrocartilaginous callus mineralization and enhanced the viability and proliferation of bone and bone-marrow cells. These effects culminated in higher bone volume fraction, higher bone mineral density, and improved mechanical quality of the newly formed bone. Together, our data suggest CBD and CBG as therapeutic agents that can replace NSAIDs in managing post-fracture pain as both cannabinoids exert potent analgesic effects and, at the same time, promote bone healing.”

Medical cannabis laws lower individual market health insurance premiums

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“Background: To evaluate the impact of medical cannabis laws (MCLs) on health insurance premiums. We study whether cannabis legalization significantly impacts aggregate health insurer premiums in the individual market. Increases in utilization could have spillover effects to patients in the form of higher health insurance premiums.

Methods: We use 2010-2021 state-level U.S. private health insurer financial data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. We examined changes to individual market health insurance premiums after the implementation of medical cannabis laws. We employed a robust difference-in-differences estimator that accounted for variation in policy timing to exploit temporal and geographic variation in state-level medical cannabis legalization.

Results: Seven years after the implementation of Medical Cannabis laws, we observe lower health insurer premiums in the individual market. Starting seven years post-MCL implementation, we find a reduction of $-1662.7 (95% confidence interval [CI -2650.1, -605.7]) for states which implemented MCLs compared to the control group, a reduction of -$1541.8 (95% confidence interval [CI 2602.1, -481.4]) in year 8, and a reduction of $-1625.8, (95% confidence interval [CI -2694.2, -557.5]) in year 9. Due to the nature of insurance pooling and community rating, these savings are appreciated by cannabis users and non-users alike in states that have implemented MCLs.

Conclusions: The implementation of MCLs lowers individual-market health insurance premiums. Health insurance spending, including premiums, comprises between 16% and 34% of household budgets in the United States. As healthcare costs continue to rise, our findings suggest that households that obtain their health insurance on the individual (i.e., not employer sponsored) market in states with MCLs appreciate significantly lower premiums.”

Cannabis use for exercise recovery in trained individuals: a survey study

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“Background: Cannabis use, be it either cannabidiol (CBD) use and/or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) use, shows promise to enhance exercise recovery. The present study aimed to determine if individuals are using CBD and/or THC as a means of recovery from aerobic and/or resistance exercise, as well as additional modalities that might be used to aid in recovery.

Methods: Following consent, 111 participants (Mean ± SD: Age: 31 ± 13 years) completed an anonymous survey. All participants were regularly using cannabis (CBD and/or THC) as well as were currently exercising. Questions pertained to level of cannabis use, methods used for consumption of cannabis, exercise habits, exercise recovery strategies, and demographics.

Results: Eighty-five percent of participants reported participating in aerobic training. In addition, 85% of participants also reported regular participation in resistance exercise. Seventy-two percent of participants participated in both aerobic and resistance exercise. Ninety-three percent of participants felt that CBD use assisted them with recovery from exercise, while 87% of participants felt the same regarding THC use.

Conclusions: Individuals who habitually use cannabis, CBD or THC, and regularly engage in exercise do feel that cannabis assists them with exercise recovery. More data are necessary to understand the role of cannabis in exercise recovery as well as perceived ergogenic benefits of cannabis by individuals who both regularly participate in exercise and habitually use cannabis.”

“CBD or THC use have been suggested to play a role in pain management, inflammation, and sleep, which are hallmarks for recovery from exercise. While data are lacking, it is clear that individuals are using cannabis and believe cannabis to have a positive effect on recovery from exercise. The present study demonstrated that in addition to more traditional recovery methods, cannabis is used as an ergogenic recovery aid by individuals that exercise regularly.”

Cannabidiol-Loaded Nanoparticles Based on Crosslinked Starch: Anti-Inflammatory Activity and Improved Nose-to-Brain Delivery

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“Cannabidiol (CBD) has previously been shown to inhibit inflammatory cytokine production in both in vitro and in vivo studies of neurodegenerative diseases. To date, the CBD treatment of these diseases by quantitative targeting directly to the brain is one of the greatest challenges. In this paper, we present a new particulate system capable of delivering CBD into the brain via the intranasal route. Intranasal administration of CBD-loaded starch nanoparticles resulted in higher levels of cannabidiol in the brain compared to an identically administered cannabidiol solution. The production and the characterization of starch-based nanoparticles was reported, as well as the evaluation of their penetration and anti-inflammatory activity in cells. Cannabidiol-loaded starch nanoparticles were prepared by crosslinking with divanillin, using the nanoprecipitation method. Evaluation of the anti-inflammatory activity in vitro was performed using the BV2 microglia cell line. The starch nanoparticles appeared under electron microscopy in clusters sized approximately 200 nm in diameter. In cultures of lipopolysaccharide-induced inflamed BV2 cells, the cannabidiol-loaded starch nanoparticles demonstrated low toxicity while effectively reducing nitric oxide production and IL-6 levels. The anti-inflammatory effect was comparable to that of a glucocorticoid. Starch-based nanoparticle formulations combined with intranasal administration may provide a suitable platform for efficacious cannabidiol delivery and activity in the central nervous system.”

Therapeutic Potential and Predictive Pharmaceutical Modeling of Stilbenes in Cannabis sativa

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“Cannabis sativa is a plant used for recreational and therapeutic purposes; however, many of the secondary metabolites in the plant have not been thoroughly investigated. Stilbenes are a class of compounds with demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are present in cannabis. Many stilbenes present in cannabis have been investigated for their therapeutic effects. Fourteen stilbenes have been identified to be present in cannabis, all of which are structurally dihydrostilbenoids, with half possessing a prenylated moiety. The stilbenes summarized in this analysis show varying degrees of therapeutic benefits ranging from anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-cancer to antioxidant effects. Many of the identified stilbenes have been researched to a limited extent for potential health benefits. In addition, predictive in silico modeling was performed on the fourteen identified cannabis-derived stilbenes. This modeling provides prospective activity, pharmacokinetic, metabolism, and permeability data, setting the groundwork for further investigation into these poorly characterized compounds.”

“In conclusion, fourteen bibenzyl stilbenes have been identified in Cannabis sativa so far, though with the number of compounds identified in the plant ever increasing, more are likely to be characterized over time. The fourteen stilbenes have various degrees of investigational research into their therapeutic potential, with some members, such as dihydroresveratrol and gigantol, being very well characterized due to their presence in other plant sources, while others have just recently been discovered. These compounds show promise as therapeutic agents that could be developed into novel medications for a variety of conditions with further research and development.”