Federal health regulators have formally approved the first-ever clinical trial of medical marijuana for arthritis.
The trial, sponsored by Canadian company CanniMed, will investigate the effectiveness of medical marijuana for managing pain associated with osteoarthritis. According to a company release, patient recruitment will be finalized in the coming weeks.
Arthritis is one of the most common conditions treated with medical marijuana. More than a third of Canada’s 40,000 medical marijuana patients use cannabis to treat some form of joint disease.
Despite this fact, no clinical trial has investigated marijuana’s effectiveness for managing symptoms of arthritis.
“With 36 per cent of the patients registered in the former MMAR program suffering with symptoms of severe arthritis — the largest concentration of any disease area — we felt there was no option but to continue our clinical exploration within this important patient group,” explained Brent Zettl, President and CEO of Prairie Plant Systems and its subsidiary, CanniMed.
The company says the approval marks the start of a clinical trial program that will involve several varieties of medical marijuana.
Under a new nationwide program introduced in April, Canadian patients can purchase medical marijuana from providers like CanniMed if recommended by their doctors.
However, both the government and various medical organizations maintain that there is not enough clinical evidence to support marijuana as a medicine.
Although in 2001 a federal Medical Marijuana Research Program was established to provide such evidence, funding of the program was cancelled in 2006. Clinical research on cannabis has remained at a standstill ever since.
Zettl hopes that more research will help “to determine not only the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis, but also to provide prescribing physicians with the clinical data they are looking for regarding dosing.”