(HealthDay News) — Medical cannabis provides pain relief and reduces opioid use in patients with cancer, according to a study published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

Researchers examined the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis in reducing pain and concurrent medications in 358 patients with cancer who were part of the Quebec Cannabis Registry.

At 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months of follow-up, there were significant decreases in the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) for worst pain, average pain, overall pain severity, and pain interference. Significant decreases were also seen in revised Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS-r) pain scores.

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Pain Outcomes Over Time
OutcomeBaseline3 Months6 Months9 MonthsP value
BPI Worst Pain5.5±0.73.6±0.73.6±0.73.6±0.8<.01
BPI Average Pain4.1±0.62.4±0.62.3±0.62.7±0.7<.01
BPI Overall Pain Severity3.7±0.52.3±0.62.3±0.62.4±0.6<.01
BPI Pain Interference4.3±0.62.4±0.62.2±0.62.4±0.7<.01
ESAS-r Pain Scores3.7±0.62.5±0.62.2±0.62.0±0.7<.01

Better pain relief was seen with tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol (THC:CBD) balanced strains than with THC-dominant and CBD-dominant strains.

Patients’ medication burden and opioid consumption also decreased over time. The proportion of patients who had decreases in Medication Quantification Scale scores from baseline was 10% at 3 months, 23.5% at 6 months, 26.2% at 9 months, and 31.6% at 12 months.

The proportion of patients who had decreases in morphine equivalent daily dose scores from baseline was 11.1% at 3 months, 31.3% at 6 months, and 14.3% at 9 months.

There were 15 moderate-to-severe adverse events in 11 patients. There were 2 serious events — pneumonia and cardiovascular events — that were considered unlikely to be related to medical cannabis.

“[O]ur data suggest a role for MC [medical cannabis] as a safe and complementary treatment option in patients with cancer failing to reach adequate pain relief through conventional analgesics, such as opioids,” the researchers wrote.

The study was funded by several licensed cannabis producers. One researcher disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry and cannabis-producing companies.

Abstract/Full Text