UK researchers find medical cannabis improves quality of life in MS and osteoarthritis

Cannabis Health
Fri, May 10

New findings using data collected through the UK Medical Cannabis Patient Registry support the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of osteoarthritis, as well as MS. 

According to the charity Versus Arthritis, 10 million people in the UK are living with osteoarthritis, symptoms of which include chronic pain, fatigue, immobility, and reduced dexterity. 

The prevalence of the condition is said to have increased by 64% in the last two decades—a statistic which is set to rise in line with an ageing population. 

Around 30 million prescriptions were dispensed for musculoskeletal conditions and joint diseases in England in 2021-2022, the charity also reports, costing approximately £151 million.

Researchers behind the new study, published last month, say their findings support the development of clinical studies investigating cannabis-based medicines as a potential alternative treatment option for osteoarthritis.

The paper noted significant improvements in pain severity and overall quality of life in patients prescribed cannabis medicines for osteoarthritis. 

A total of 77 patients enrolled on the registry were included in the study. The majority were prescribed both CBD and THC in a combination of oil and flower products.

Patients reported improvements in pain severity during follow-up appointments at three, six, nine and 12 months, as well as improvements in anxiety, sleep quality and overall health-related quality of life.

The authors conclude: “These results suggest an improvement in pain-related outcomes for patients with osteoarthritis following the initiation of CBMP treatment. Furthermore, there was an improvement in general HRQoL metrics across the follow-up period. CBMPs also appeared to be well-tolerated at 12-month follow-up.”

While the observational study design means that it is not possible to establish a causal effect, the researchers believe the findings support the development of further randomised controlled trials in this area.

They add: “… due to this study design, a causal effect cannot be established. Hence, this study supports the development of RCTs for CBMP use in osteoarthritis.”

In a separate paper, published on 4 May, the researchers conducted a similar analysis of patients prescribed cannabis for the treatment of MS, finding significant improvements in health-related quality of life.

Over 140 patients were included in the study, all of whom had been prescribed cannabis medicines for more than one month. 

Following six months of treatment, the researchers noted improvements in a number of outcomes according to the MS Quality of Life-54 (MSQoL-54) scale.   

This included overall health, cognitive function, mental health composition, physical health, role limitations due to physical limitation and due to emotional problems, as well as social and sexual function. Patients also reported improvements in generalised anxiety and sleep quality. 

The researchers conclude: “This preliminary analysis demonstrates a possible association with improved general health-related quality of life in those prescribed CBMPs for MS. Moreover, the results suggest that CBMPs are well-tolerated in the first 6 months of treatment. 

“However, this must be interpreted with caution considering the limitations of the observational study design.”