A new study of more than 1,000 patients affirms early signs that medical marijuana might help reduce the severity of nausea, insomnia and other side effects related to cancer and its treatment.
The researchers from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Oncology Research Center at HealthPartners/Park Nicollet found that patients with cancer who enrolled in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program reported significant improvement in symptoms, including reduced anxiety, lack of appetite, depression, disturbed sleep, fatigue, nausea, pain and vomiting, within four months of starting to use medical weed.
“It is reassuring to find this proof that Minnesota’s medical cannabis program is helping cancer sufferers,” stated Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “Along with assisting people with qualifying requirements, the program was made to help advance scientific understanding of the treatment potential of cannabis. These latest findings demonstrate that the program is making valuable contributions toward that goal as well.”
The study included data from 1,120 patients with cancer who enrolled in the Minnesota medical cannabis application between July 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2017. Using a numerical scale, the sufferers reported seriousness of eight symptoms before each medical cannabis buy. Lots of patients achieved a decrease in the intensity of symptoms and maintained that advantage for at least four weeks.
Minnesota’s medical cannabis application is particularly helpful to researchers because it relies on fabricated, well-controlled cannabis goods and carries a patient registration and survey process.
“Access to medical cannabis products has improved, even though there are just a few large studies which offer good data on its effect,” said Dr. Dylan Zylla, medical director of the Oncology Research Center in HealthPartners/Park Nicollet and co-author of this study. “This research shows us that some patients have a clinically meaningful response to utilizing clinical cannabis to control symptoms associated with cancer or its treatment and the findings can help guide our future research.” The study was recently published in the Journal of Oncology Practice.
Almost half of individuals who experienced vomiting at the time of the cannabis certification reported that the severity of nausea reduced by greater than 30% over the four weeks after their initial cannabis buy. Patients also reported any negative effects that might be attributed to medical cannabis. Side effects were reported by 11% of patients, with tiredness, dry-mouth, and improved appetite being the most common.
“No other state medical weed program collects as much information on patients during their participation since Minnesota’s program, and this is a direct manifestation of this program’s commitment to learning from individual experiences,” said Susan Anderson, MDH research scientist and co-author. “It’s gratifying to find the reported benefits and also the relatively modest level of adverse side effects experienced by cancer patients.”
More than 30 states have legalized at least some kinds of medical cannabis for a variety of diseases. This increase in availability has prompted patients to ask their physicians about using these products. However, data indicates that physicians generally feel unprepared to guide their patients in using cannabis products. Zylla and colleagues, including MDH researcher Dr. Tom Arneson, printed survey data in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, showing that 65% of maternal healthcare professionals supported using medical cannabis, yet 36% said they lacked confidence in talking about the risks and benefits of medical weed with sufferers. In addition, 85% of respondents desired more instruction on the subject.
“The information is promising, but we want comprehensive, high-quality research for this to keep to be able to fully understand both the risks and potential benefits of medical cannabis,” Zylla said. “Our patients with advanced malignancies frequently revolve around quality of life. Finding safe, effective, cost-efficient ways to assist them manage symptoms is paramount”
Independent of MDH, Zylla and colleagues are also in the process of completing a randomized study of patients with advanced cancers to determine how medical weed affected pain management and reproductive use. Preliminary results are expected in June.