Researchers in Canada are to carry out a new study that will assess the potential benefits that medical cannabis can provide for arthritis patients.
Canada’s Arthritis Society is providing a three-year research grant to Dr Jason McDougall of Dalhousie University, a leading pain researcher, to investigate the drug’s impact on arthritis pain and disease management.
Specifically, it will examine the ability of cannabis-like compounds to repair joint nerves and thereby relieve neuropathic pain from osteoarthritis. Dr McDougall’s project was selected following an extensive multi-disciplinary peer review process ranking competing submissions from a number of Canadian researchers.
This will provide fresh insights not only into the medical applications of cannabis, but also into the emerging theory that much of the pain felt by osteoarthritis sufferers is neuropathic in nature, meaning it is caused by nervous system damage rather than joint degeneration.
Should this be proven true, it would help explain why current therapies are only mildly effective in managing osteoarthritis pain.
In Canada, medical cannabis is authorised for use in certain circumstances. According to the Arthritis Society’s research, the majority of Canadians who are allowed to use it do so to help manage their arthritis pain.
Janet Yale, president and chief executive officer of the Arthritis Society, said: “People living with arthritis pain are looking for alternatives to improve their quality of life. We need research to help answer the many important questions around medical cannabis and its use.”
A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK said: “There is an urgent need for better pain relief to help the millions of people who live with the daily agony caused by osteoarthritis.
“Previous research has suggested that cannabinoid receptors could help to relieve pain and inflammation in the joints. Recent research conducted at the Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre shows that chemical compounds synthesised in the laboratory, similar to those found in cannabis, could be developed as potential drugs to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis.
“However, before cannabinoid medicines could be made available on prescription, more research is needed to clearly show their benefit and safety for people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, so we welcome this new research and look forward to its findings.”