The Arthritis Society hosts medical cannabis roundtable

December 3, 2015

Over 25 organizations gather to discuss research and policy priorities 

Against the backdrop of a new federal government likely to open the doors to greater access, The Arthritis Society is hosting a national roundtable on medical cannabis. The Society is bringing together a broad cross-section of stakeholders to prioritize what research questions need to be answered to better understand the potential of medical cannabis as a treatment therapy.

“Medical cannabis has been available in Canada as a treatment for chronic disease symptoms for over a decade,” says Joanne Simons, chief mission officer, The Arthritis Society. “Since that time, there has been a surprising absence of evidenced-based information to help guide physicians and their patients in determining whether or not it should be considered as a treatment option. Our aim with this conference is to take meaningful steps to reduce this knowledge gap.” 

Over 25 organizations are attending including representatives from patient groups, government, industry, health charities and academic and research institutions.   The two-day, invitation-only roundtable runs begins on Thursday, December 3 in Vancouver.

Developing a deeper scientific understanding of medical cannabis is a key focus for conference organizers.

Our research goal with medical cannabis is to understand its potential as an effective and safe treatment for chronic diseases such as arthritis,” says Dr. Jason McDougall, a pain researcher from Dalhousie University. “We want to build on existing science to understand how cannabis works, as well as how it interacts with other treatments.

Beyond the basics of safety and efficacy, other important questions that need to be answered include dosage levels, how the drug is administered, and the profile of who might respond best to medical cannabis therapy.
Meanwhile, as regulations change and a new federal government considers increased access to cannabis generally, people with chronic diseases are looking for answers as well.

“Research is essential to moving medical cannabis forward from the world of the unknown to the known,” says Jonathan Zaid, founder and executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana and a medical cannabis patient diagnosed with a pain syndrome called new daily persistent headache. “Creating and driving a research agenda will help provide clarity for both healthcare providers and their patients.”  
 
Zaid tried 45 different therapies before giving medical cannabis a shot to treat his chronic pain. Armed with the clear evidence that traditional therapies were not effective, he worked with his healthcare team to secure insurance coverage for his medical cannabis prescription.  
 
“I am very lucky in that it worked for me,” Zaid concludes. “We need to investigate and dive deeper to truly understand its therapeutic effectiveness.”  
 
A summary report of conclusions drawn from the roundtable will be made available in early 2016. For more information about medical cannabis including The Arthritis Society’s position statement, please visit arthritis.ca/MedicalCannabis.