The Arthritis Society of Canada is awarding a three-year research grant to Dr. Mark Ware to study the use of medical marijuana (cannabis) for fibromyalgia pain.
Ware is the director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He also serves as executive director of the nonprofit Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids.
Understanding the role that medical cannabis can play in mediating pain management is critical for patients and clinicians. Although many pain patients report that medical marijuana can ease their symptoms, there is not much scientific data to support these claims. And there are no large-scale clinical trials on the use of cannabinoids to treat fibromyalgia pain.
The Arthritis Society hopes to help fill this gap.
“These investments are about leading by example,” Janet Yale, president and CEO of The Arthritis Society, said in a press release. “Patients and physicians both need to be able to make informed decisions about whether cannabis has a place in the individual’s treatment plan.”
The pain that patients with fibromyalgia experience can be quite broad. It varies not only in intensity but also in location and frequency. These symptoms are often associated with broader ailments, ranging from sleep disorders to gastrointestinal problems. As a result, the pain can be debilitating to patients.
“This disease has a tremendous impact on a person’s life, but to date we haven’t really had any good treatment options to offer,” Ware said. “Opioids and NSAIDs [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] for pain management are often ineffective for fibromyalgia pain, or can have serious negative side effects — especially when used for prolonged periods.”
“We hope to identify whether oral cannabinoids can offer the person with fibromyalgia hope for relief from their symptoms and help restore their quality of life. We are grateful for the support of The Arthritis Society for this important project,” Ware said.
In July 2015, The Arthritis Society awarded a similar grant to Dr. Jason McDougall of Dalhousie University in Canada to study the impact of medical marijuana on arthritis pain and disease management.
“With these commitments, The Arthritis Society is doing its part to help fill some of the critical knowledge gaps around medical cannabis, but we can’t do it alone,” Yale said. “There’s no reason for the government to wait until new legislation is in place to start addressing the need for research identified by their own task force. That’s why we continue to call on the federal government to make a firm commitment in the 2017 budget to fund $25 million in medical cannabis research over the next five years.”
This announcement by The Arthritis Society comes on the heels of the final report of the Canadian government’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, which provides a framework for legalization and regulation.
The task force, like The Arthritis Society, advocates for more research, regulated access to, and affordability of cannabis.
With increasing numbers of patients turning to medical marijuana for pain management, this type of research is not only necessary, but welcome to many who are living with pain.
The Arthritis Society is Canada’s principal charity, providing education, programs, and support to more than 4 million Canadians living with the disease. It is also the largest non-government funder of arthritis research.