British Columbia

Medical cannabis and arthritis pain research subject of roundtable talks

The majority of people, 65 per cent, who are authorized to possess medical cannabis, use it to manage arthritis pain, according to The Arthritis Society.

Most medical cannabis users take it to manage arthritis pain, says The Arthritis Society

There is strong anecdotal evidence that medical cannabis helps manage the pain of osteoarthritis, but more research is needed, says Joanne Simons with The Arthritis Society. (Associated Press)

The majority of people, 65 per cent, who are authorized to possess medical cannabis use it to manage arthritis pain, according to The Arthritis Society.

The organization is hosting a national medical cannabis roundtable discussion in Vancouver today with the hope more scientists will research the subject.

"We can come to consensus about the research priority areas of medical cannabis.Trying to understand both from a basic science perspective, a clinical science, health services and policies .. how we should be thinking about investing, as a community, with medical cannabis," said Joanne Simons, chief mission officer at The Arthritis Society.

'We certainly need more research'

Simons says the 25 organizations and 50 participants from patient groups, government, industry, health charities and academic institutions at the roundtable today will discuss not only the science behind medical cannabis, but also the funding model. She says more research is needed, because more people are asking about medical cannabis — something she noticed after Health Canada changed the regulations around access to medical cannabis 18 months ago.

"We're working together, not only to understand how we invest, but how can we actually work together as a community to raise more money to invest in the research itself," she said.

Joanne Simons will be at the roundtable discussion December 3 and 4, talking about the effectiveness of medical cannabis as a treatment for arthritis pain. (Charlie Cho / CBC)

While The Arthritis Society does not advocate recreational use of the drug, the federal government's agenda of legalizing marijuana means there is a sense of urgency.

"Anything that is going to open up access to a broader population means that we certainly need more research for people, both patients and GPs," said Simons.

How medical cannabis can help arthritis

Simons says the evidence behind the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating arthritis is anecdotal at this point. But with two-thirds of medical cannabis users taking it for arthritis, it is clear more research is needed.

Many of those users have a specific type of arthritis: osteoarthritis. There are not as many treatments available for this ailment compared to other types of arthritis, explained Simon.

Some scientists believe that osteoarthritis pain comes from damage in the nervous system and not from the degeneration of joints. Simons says medical cannabis may directly target the source of this pain.

"There's a growing body of evidence that shows that cannabis compounds can help both pain and fatigue. It's not the notion around the dulling of senses that helps the pain, but actually that the cannabis is reducing the activity of the pain nerves within a joint."

People looking for more information on medical cannabis can find information on the science behind it and regulations around access on The Arthritis Society website.

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Medical marijuana and arthritis pain.


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