The Journal of Parkinson’s Disease has published a study “Cannabis in Parkinson’s Disease: The Patients’ View” exploring medicinal cannabis as a treatment for the disease that affects the brain and results in a progressive loss of coordination and movement.
As part of the research, a survey was carried out on patients in Germany and found that the majority of people with Parkinson’s disease were interested in trying medical cannabis as a treatment option.
The survey uncovered that those who were already using medicinal cannabis reported that it had positive effects in treating their symptoms.
Those who had not yet tried medical cannabis indicated their hesitance was due to a lack of knowledge and fear of possible side effects.
While clinical data remains low, interest in the medicinal uses of cannabis has grown in recent years with many welcoming the global shift for its life-changing impact on patients.
Will Douglas, Co-Founder and COO of NUBU Pharmaceuticals said “As interest in medicinal cannabis treatments grows, more and more research is being undertaken across a wide range of indications, including Parkinsons. In time we will have the clinical data to help prescribers better address their patients needs.”
Medicinal cannabis is now being used worldwide as a treatment for the symptoms of several diseases, including Parkinson’s.
Although Germany approved medical cannabis for use for treatment-resistant symptoms in 2017, many questions surrounding its use remain unanswered.
Carsten Buhmann, MD, of the department of neurology at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and the study’s senior author, said in a press release “There are few data about which type of cannabinoid and which route of administration might be promising for which [Parkinson’s] patient and which symptoms”
“We also lack information about the extent to which the [Parkinson’s] community is informed about medicinal cannabis and whether they have tried cannabis and, if so, with what result”
Buhmann and his colleagues at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf set out to explore this gap in information by conducting a nationwide survey of members of the German Parkinson Association.
With nearly 21,000 members, Buhmann and his team were able to analyse 1,348 individual completed questionnaires.
The results of the survey showed that just 51% of respondents knew that medical cannabis was legal in Germany and 28% were aware of its various routes of administration, such as oral and inhaled.
Only 9% of respondents understood the difference between THC and the cannabis’ non-psychoactive compound, cannabidiol (CBD).
A minor 8.4% of respondents reported actively using medicinal cannabis and more than 40% of users said that treatment helped lessen pain and muscle cramps.
Over 20% felt improvements in stiffness, freezing, tremor, depression, anxiety and restless legs syndrome.
The medicinal cannabis users reported that inhaled THC-bearing compounds treated their stiffness better than oral CBD products (50% vs 35.4%).
However the study found that the oral CBD products were slightly better tolerated.
While the survey showed that medical cannabis had positive effects for many patients using it, Buhmann said it’s hard to fully explain its potential benefits without rigorous scientific data supporting its use and called for further research.
“Clinically appropriate studies are urgently needed,” he said.
The co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, Bastiaan R. Bloem, MD, PhD, said that the survey provides further confirmation that patients with Parkinson’s show a widespread interest in the potential of medicinal cannabis and that more clinical research is needed.
The study also found that users of medicinal cannabis tend to be younger, to live in large cities and to be more informed on the medication’s clinical and legal aspects.
This finding is consistent with another study conducted in the United States that found medical cannabis users were younger than non-users.
The main reason given by non-users for not trying medical cannabis was due to a lack of scientific evidence.
That survey was carried out in 2020 and found that nearly 25% of 1,064 patients surveyed used cannabis for symptomatic relief of Parkinson’s disease.
“Like in Germany, there is still confusion around the legal status of medicinal cannabis for patients in New Zealand. This will decrease over time as the new Medicinal Cannabis Agency gets established and prescriber education initiatives ramp up, but it goes to show the importance of having access to the right information to make the right healthcare decisions.” - Will Douglas, NUBU Pharmaceuticals