Focus on Medical Marjuana

This Hot Health event featured two speakers presenting personal, and clinical points of view.

Victoria Catherwood is a final year medical student at the University of Otago. Last year Victoria crowdfunded to create the educational documentary, ‘Mum, Cannabis and Me: the right to informed choice’, with the aim of highlighting the science, ethics and law surrounding cannabis as a medicine to increase patient health outcomes and minimise harm. Victoria discusses her film (not part of this recording but the trailer is available here

Following Victoria, Associate Professor John Ashton from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology provides an overview of the ways in which THC acts on cannabinoid receptors, and CBD, which acts on a variety of other molecular targets.

THC based products have been under investigation for analgesia, and CBD mainly as a drug for childhood epilepsy. Although THC has undoubted analgesic effects, experiments have found that these are moderate at best, and in some clinical trials do little better than placebo. The best quality data has come from clinical trials run by GW Pharma, whose products include Epidiolex (CBD) and Sativex (a 1:1 mix of THC and CBD). Although trials for Dravet’s syndrome using Epidiolex were initially promising, analysis of pharmacokinetic interactions of the drug with other drugs used by patients have cast doubt on these results. With respect to cancer pain, Sativex failed to relieve pain to an extent greater than placebo.

This evidence base is at odds with anecdotes from some patients. It has been suggested that cannabis is used not so much by these patients for direct analgesia, but for its non-specific sedating and mood altering properties. Read more about John’s research here


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