Cannabis in palliative care: current challenges and practical recommendations.

 “Pain and symptom control challenges are common in palliative care, and the search for other therapeutic strategies is ongoing.

Unfortunately, patients and their caregivers are receiving little information or support from healthcare providers regarding the increasingly popular cannabinoid-based medicines (CBM).

Clinicians, meanwhile, feel understandably perplexed by the discrepancy between the available evidence and the rapid interest in which patients and their families have demonstrated for CBM.

There is an urgent need to address the many challenges that are delaying the appropriate integration of CBM into clinical practice, notwithstanding the obvious need for a solid general knowledge of pharmacology, mechanism of action and available clinical evidence supporting its use.

The authors will address these challenges and provide practical recommendations regarding patient assessment for the use of CBM. The authors will also make suggestions regarding patient expectations in order to define clear objectives, review the necessary precautions prior to initiating treatment, aid in selecting the appropriate strain and route of administration as well as establishing proper titration and monitoring protocols. The authors will also discuss the lesser known but potentially therapeutic psychoactive effects of cannabis.

As this class of therapeutic agents are likely to play a major role in palliative medicine in the near future, clinicians would benefit from familiarizing themselves with CBM and we can expect that patients and their caregivers will appreciate receiving support in their search for safe and effective therapeutic alternatives.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30180728

http://apm.amegroups.com/article/view/20097

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Cannabidiol Administered During Peri-Adolescence Prevents Behavioral Abnormalities in an Animal Model of Schizophrenia.

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“Schizophrenia is considered a debilitating neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorder and its pharmacotherapy remains problematic without recent major advances. The development of interventions able to prevent the emergence of schizophrenia would therefore represent an enormous progress.

Here, we investigated whether treatment with cannabidiol (CBD – a compound of Cannabis sativa that presents an antipsychotic profile in animals and humans) during peri-adolescence would prevent schizophrenia-like behavioral abnormalities in an animal model of schizophrenia: the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) strain.

Treatment with CBD prevented the emergence of SHRs’ hyperlocomotor activity (a model for the positive symptoms of schizophrenia) and deficits in prepulse inhibition of startle and contextual fear conditioning (cognitive impairments). CBD did not induce any of the potential motor or metabolic side effects evaluated. Treatment with CBD increased the prefrontal cortex 5-HIAA/serotonin ratio and the levels of 5-HIAA on post-natal days 61 and 90, respectively.

Our data provide pre-clinical evidence for a safe and beneficial effect of peripubertal and treatment with CBD on preventing positive and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, and suggest the involvement of the serotoninergic system on this effect.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30186164

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2018.00901/full

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Medical Marijuana Use in Older Adults.

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society banner“Symptom management in older adults, including pain and distressing non-pain symptoms, can be challenging. Medications can cause side effects that worsen quality of life or create other symptoms, and polypharmacy itself can be detrimental in older adults. 

Cannabinoids may offer a way of managing selected symptoms with fewer side effects.

Medical marijuana is an important area of study for older adults because of the side effects of other medications. It is also important for Baby Boomers, who are likely to have more experience with marijuana than older adults of previous generations. Therefore, geriatricians should understand medical marijuana’s clinical indications, adverse effects, and legal context.

This article reviews the evidence regarding indications for and risks of medical marijuana use in older adults.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29668039

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jgs.15346

“Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in the elderly population.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29398248

“Medical cannabis significantly safer for elderly with chronic pain than Opioids”  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180213111508.htm

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The effect of nabilone on appetite, nutritional status, and quality of life in lung cancer patients: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial.

Supportive Care in Cancer

“Over one half of the patients diagnosed with advanced lung cancer experience anorexia. In addition to its high incidence, cancer-induced anorexia promotes the development of the anorexia-cachexia syndrome, which is related to poor clinical outcomes.

Recently, drugs derived from cannabinoids, such as Nabilone, have been recognized for their appetite improvement properties.

METHODS:

This is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of Nabilone vs. placebo on the appetite, nutritional status, and quality of life in patients diagnosed with advanced Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (NCT02802540).

CONCLUSION:

Nabilone is an adequate and safe therapeutic option to aid in the treatment of patients diagnosed with anorexia. Larger trials are necessary in order to draw robust conclusions in regard to its efficacy in lung cancer patients.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29550881

“Nabilone is a synthetic cannabinoid with therapeutic use as an antiemetic and as an adjunct analgesic for neuropathic pain. It mimics tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound found naturally occurring in Cannabis.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabilone
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Prospective analysis of safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in large unselected population of patients with cancer

Cover image volume 49, Issue

“Cancer is a major public health problem as the leading cause of death. Palliative treatment aimed to alleviate pain and nausea in patients with advanced disease is a cornerstone of oncology.

In 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Health began providing approvals for medical cannabis for the palliation of cancer symptoms. The aim of this study is to characterize the epidemiology of cancer patients receiving medical cannabis treatment and describe the safety and efficacy of this therapy.

Methods

We analyzed the data routinely collected as part of the treatment program of 2970 cancer patients treated with medical cannabis between 2015 and 2017.

Results

The average age was 59.5 ± 16.3 years, 54.6% women and 26.7% of the patients reported previous experience with cannabis. The most frequent types of cancer were: breast (20.7%), lung (13.6%), pancreatic (8.1%) and colorectal (7.9%) with 51.2% being at stage 4. The main symptoms requiring therapy were: sleep problems (78.4%), pain (77.7%, median intensity 8/10), weakness (72.7%), nausea (64.6%) and lack of appetite (48.9%). After six months of follow up, 902 patients (24.9%) died and 682 (18.8%) stopped the treatment. Of the remaining, 1211 (60.6%) responded; 95.9% reported an improvement in their condition, 45 patients (3.7%) reported no change and four patients (0.3%) reported deterioration in their medical condition.

Conclusions

Cannabis as a palliative treatment for cancer patients seems to be well tolerated, effective and safe option to help patients cope with the malignancy related symptoms.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29482741

http://www.ejinme.com/article/S0953-6205(18)30023-2/pdf

“Cannabis to be a “Safe,” “Effective” Medical Treatment in First-of-its-Kind, Peer-Reviewed Study of Thousands of Cancer Patients Using Tikun Olam™ Strains”  http://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/cannabis-to-be-a-safe-effective-medical-treatment-in-first-of-its-kind-peer-reviewed-study-of-thousands-of-cancer-patients-using-tikun-olam-strains-1017297749

“For the first time, a major scientific study has confirmed what cannabis advocates have known for decades: that cannabis can be a safe and effective palliative treatment in patients suffering from the debilitating effects of cancer.”  https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cannabis-to-be-a-safe-effective-medical-treatment-in-first-of-its-kind-peer-reviewed-study-of-thousands-of-cancer-patients-using-tikun-olam-strains-300604361.html

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Cannabidiol inhibits pathogenic T cells, decreases spinal microglial activation and ameliorates multiple sclerosis-like disease in C57BL/6 mice.

British Journal of Pharmacology

“Cannabis extracts and several cannabinoids have been shown to exert broad anti-inflammatory activities in experimental models of inflammatory CNS degenerative diseases.

Clinical use of many cannabinoids is limited by their psychotropic effects. However, phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD), devoid of psychoactive activity, are, potentially, safe and effective alternatives for alleviating neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration.

Treatment with CBD during disease onset ameliorated the severity of the clinical signs of EAE.

CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, ameliorates clinical signs of EAE in mice, immunized against MOG. Suppression of microglial activity and T-cell proliferation by CBD appeared to contribute to these beneficial effects.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21449980

“In summary, we have shown that CBD administered to MOG-immunized C57BL/6 mice, at the onset of EAE disease, reduced the severity of the clinical signs of EAE. CBD treatment was accompanied by diminished axonal loss and inflammation (infiltration of T cells and microglial activation). Moreover, CBD prevented proliferation of myelin-specific T cells in vitro. These observations suggest that CBD may have potential for alleviating MS-like pathology.” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01379.x/full

“Study Shows Cannabidiol (CBD) Improves MS-Like Symptoms”  http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=31211

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Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics of Oral Cannabidiol Following Administration of PTL101: A New Formulation Based on Gelatin Matrix Pellets Technology.

Clinical Pharmacology in Drug Development

“Cannabidiol (CBD) is the main nonpsychoactive component of the cannabis plant. It has been associated with antiseizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and antipsychotic effects.

PTL101 is an oral gelatin matrix pellets technology-based formulation containing highly purified CBD embedded in seamless gelatin matrix beadlets. Study objectives were to evaluate the safety and tolerability of PTL101 containing 10 and 100 mg CBD, following single administrations to healthy volunteers and to compare the pharmacokinetic profiles and relative bioavailability of CBD with Sativex oromucosal spray (the reference product) in a randomized, crossover study design.

Administration of PTL101 containing 10 CBD, led to a 1.7-fold higher Cmax and 1.3-fold higher AUC compared with the oromucosal spray. Tmax following both modes of delivery was 3-3.5 hours postdosing. CBD exhibited about a 1-hour lag in absorption when delivered via PTL101. A 10-fold increase in the dose resulted in an ∼15-fold increase in Cmax and AUC. Bioavailability of CBD in the 10-mg PTL101 dose was 134% relative to the reference spray.

PTL101 is a pharmaceutical-grade, user-friendly oral formulation that demonstrated safe and efficient delivery of CBD and therefore could be an attractive candidate for therapeutic indications.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29125702

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cpdd.408/abstract

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Reversal of age-related cognitive impairments in mice by an extremely low dose of tetrahydrocannabinol.

Neurobiology of Aging

“This study was designed to test our hypothesis that an ultra-low dose of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) reverses age-dependent cognitive impairments in old mice and to examine the possible biological mechanisms that underlie this behavioral effect. These findings suggest that extremely low doses of THC that are devoid of any psychotropic effect and do not induce desensitization may provide a safe and effective treatment for cognitive decline in aging humans.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29107185

“Cognitive decline is an integral aspect of aging. The idea that age-related cognitive decline can be reversed and that the old brain can be revitalized is not new. It has been previously suggested that the endocannabinoid system is part of an antiaging homeostatic defense system.  In previous studies, we have shown that ultra-low doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychotropic ingredient in cannabis) protected young mice from cognitive impairments that were evoked by various insults. In the present study, we tested our hypothesis that a single ultra-low dose of THC can reverse age-dependent cognitive decline in mice. Here, we show that a single extremely low dose of THC devoid of any psychotropic activity can trigger an endogenous compensatory mechanism that improves cognitive functioning in old mice and that this effect lasts for at least several weeks. Since THC in high doses (dronabinol, 1–10 mg) is already approved for medical treatments in humans, and since its safety profile is well characterized, we believe that the initiation of clinical trials with ultra-low doses of THC designed to reverse cognitive decline in elderly patients should be straightforward.”  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458017303214

“Reversal of age-related cognitive impairments in mice by an extremely low dose of tetrahydrocannabinol. These findings suggest that extremely low doses of THC that are devoid of any psychotropic effect and do not induce desensitization may provide a safe and effective treatment for cognitive decline in aging humans.”   http://www.neurobiologyofaging.org/article/S0197-4580(17)30321-4/fulltext

Neurobiology of Aging Home

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Dronabinol Is a Safe Long-Term Treatment Option for Neuropathic Pain Patients.

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“Treatment of neuropathic pain (NP) symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) is frequently insufficient. Yet, cannabis is still rarely offered for treatment of pain. This clinical trial aimed at showing the positive benefit-risk ratio of dronabinol. Two hundred forty MS patients with central NP entered a 16-weeks placebo-controlled phase-III study followed by a 32-weeks open-label period. One hundred patients continued therapy for overall up to 119 weeks. Primary endpoint was change of pain intensity on the 11-point Numerical Rating Scale over a 16-weeks treatment period. Safety was assessed on the basis of adverse reactions (ARs), signs of dependency and abuse. Pain intensity during 16-weeks dronabinol and placebo treatment was reduced by 1.92 and 1.81 points without significant difference in between (p = 0.676). Although the proportion of patients with ARs was higher under dronabinol compared to placebo (50.0 vs. 25.9%), it decreased during long-term use of dronabinol (26%). No signs of drug abuse and only one possible case of dependency occurred. The trial results demonstrate that dronabinol is a safe long-term treatment option.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29073592

“Overall, this trial demonstrated the long-lasting therapeutic potential, the good tolerability and favourable safety profile of dronabinol – especially in terms of drug abuse and dependency. Based on the presented results, there is no special focus on the harm caused by dronabinol treatment. Although the statistical proof of efficacy for dronabinol versus placebo treatment is pending, physicians should consider the potential benefits of the multifactorial effects of dronabinol.” https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/481089

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Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis.

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“Osteoarthritis (OA) is a multifactorial joint disease, which includes joint degeneration, intermittent inflammation, and peripheral neuropathy. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-euphoria producing constituent of cannabis that has the potential to relieve pain.

The aim of this study was to determine if CBD is anti-nociceptive in OA, and whether inhibition of inflammation by CBD could prevent the development of OA pain and joint neuropathy.

The therapeutic and prophylactic effects of peripheral CBD (100-300μg) were assessed. In end stage OA, CBD dose-dependently decreased joint afferent firing rate, and increased withdrawal threshold and weight bearing (p<0.0001; n=8). Acute, transient joint inflammation was reduced by local CBD treatment (p<0.0001; n=6). Prophylactic administration of CBD prevented the development of MIA-induced joint pain at later time points (p<0.0001; n=8), and was also found to be neuroprotective (p<0.05; n=6-8).

The data presented here indicate that local administration of CBD blocked OA pain. Prophylactic CBD treatment prevented the later development of pain and nerve damage in these OA joints.

These findings suggest that CBD may be a safe, useful therapeutic for treating OA joint neuropathic pain.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28885454             https://insights.ovid.com/crossref?an=00006396-900000000-99152

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