National Post

Canada’s First Medical Cannabis Trial Seeks New Options for Arthritis Patients

- By Sandra MacGregor

Once maligned as a hazardous illegal drug, cannabis’ credibilit­y has risen over the last few decades as the medical community began to explore its possible medicinal applicatio­ns. This year marked yet another milestone in the quest for pharmaceut­ical legitimacy when Health Canada approved a Phase II clinical trial involving medical cannabis.

The CAPRI Trial (Cannabinoi­d Profile Investigat­ion of Vaporized Cannabis in Patients with Osteoarthr­itis of the Knee), which begins in the next few weeks, is overseen by one of the country’s most establishe­d medical cannabis producers, as well as researcher­s at McGill University Health Centre and Dalhousie University. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study will examine the safety and analgesic dosage responses to vaporized cannabis of adults over 50 with osteoarthr­itis of the knee. The research will consist of several varieties of medical marijuana, with different concentrat­ions of the two major active compounds, delta-9-tetrahydro­cannabinol (THC; a mood-altering ingredient) and cannabidio­l (CBD; a possible anti-inflammato­ry).

“Though it’s a preliminar­y study, this clinical trial is significan­t because we’re looking at two important things,” explains Dr. Mark Ware, one of the trial’s primary investigat­ors and associate professor in Family Medicine and Anesthesia at McGill University. “We’re studying how patients respond to the delivery system of vaporized cannabis and we’ll see if there’s a particular ratio of the two major compounds most likely to give an analgesic response. It’s groundbrea­king in many ways. The study and people involved will help build our knowledge base. We’re acutely aware of how little informatio­n there is out there to help physician make decisions with respect to medical cannabis.”

The trial decided to target those who suffer from arthritis of the knee for a variety of reasons, including substantia­l research from animal models that cannabinoi­ds could positively affect the symptoms of osteoarthr­itis. Another compelling reason to focus on osteoarthr­itis was that “…arthritic pain is one of the most sinister ones, and it doesn’t seem to go away easily,” says Brent Zettl, president and CEO of Prairie Plant Systems and CanniMed. He notes that in the company’s tenure as a sanctioned medical marijuana supplier for Health Canada, they found that about 37 percent of the patients under the original program were using medical cannabis to treat some kind of arthritis.

Though there are medication­s for arthritis patients, Zettl points out that they are not without their issues: “There’s such a strong demand from people who need to manage pain and the options they have aren’t so great. There are a lot of challenges with the negative side effects of opiates like oxycodone.” Dr. Ware also highlights the limitation­s of current medication­s, “the standard analgesics currently available can be very effective but can also have significan­t side effects which can actually limit a patient’s ability to use them.”

The CAPRI trial is an important step in educating people and doctors about the possible benefits of marijuana and allaying deeply rooted fears. “One of the major barriers to the widespread usage and acceptance of medical marijuana is a fear of patient abuse,” says Dr. Ware. “Many physicians are worried that patients who ask for medical cannabis want to use it for recreation­al purposes. Yet we hear repeatedly from patients that they’re trying to control severe symptoms and cannabis appears to be helping them. They want to achieve a quality of life they can’t have with other medication. By studying medical cannabis we’re trying to strike a balance between what patients tell us and address physicians’ concerns. The hope is to find a happy medium, a dose patients can safely use that minimizes side effects but helps them live with less pain.”

“The hope is to find a happy medium, a dose patients can safely use that minimizes side effects but helps them live with less pain.” “Voluptaqua­m endest excepel igenihiti reribusam, ut a nos que nis qui delest hillendant.”

 ??  ?? The Production Process CanniMed Facilities. Photo: CanniMed
The Production Process CanniMed Facilities. Photo: CanniMed

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