Cannabis for pain – effective in 75% of cases –

Final report on medical cannabis released

The Federal Institute for Medicines and Medical Devices (BfArM) has recently published the final report of the accompanying survey on the prescription and use of cannabis-based medicines. It has been found that approximately 75% of all patients report a reduction in chronic pain due to cannabis.

The BfArM final report on medical cannabis confirmed the effectiveness of cannabis-based medicines. In most cases, an improvement in symptoms and quality of life with a good safety profile is reported.

Five years of medical cannabis in Germany

Since March 2017, cannabis can be prescribed in Germany in certain cases after approval by the health insurance fund. Since then, the BfArM has been carrying out an accompanying survey on the effectiveness and safety of medical cannabis. The final report which has just been published shows that the process is largely effective and safe.

Cannabis mainly prescribed for chronic pain

Among other things, the report shows that medical cannabis was predominantly (76.4%) prescribed for chronic pain. In 75% of these cases, sufferers report an improvement in symptoms.

70% of all patients who received cannabis therapy also report an improvement in their quality of life.

What cannabis-based medications have been prescribed?

The drug dronabinol was prescribed in 62.2% of all cases. 16.5% received cannabis flowers, 13% a cannabis extract and 8% the cannabis mouth spray Sativex®.

What dose was taken on average?

The average daily dose of tetrahydrocanabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant, was around 15 milligrams per day for dronabinol, cannabis extracts and Sativex®.

When using cannabis flowers, an average of 249 milligrams of THC was consumed daily. Therapeutic success with the use of cannabis flowers was higher than with other cannabis-based drugs.

What are the side effects of cannabis medicines?

The most common side effects reported by people receiving medical cannabis were fatigue and dizziness.

Medicinal cannabis effective against chronic pain

“As far as people with chronic pain are concerned, the results confirm our practical experience”, emphasizes Dr. Johannes Horlemann. He is president of the German Society for Pain Medicine eV (DGS).

According to Horlemann, especially seriously ill people who have exhausted standard therapies can benefit from cannabis therapy. “Many patients report positive effects and few side effects if the dose is carefully titrated”, underlines the president of the DGS.

“Even patients over 70 report good tolerance,” says Horlemann.

Danger of addiction in high doses

The high dose of THC when using cannabis flowers sees Dr. Horlemann, however, is critical: “The risk of abuse and dependence when using cannabis flowers is significantly higher than with d other forms of application, because over-therapeutic dosages are often reached.”

Cannabis cannot help everyone

The German Society for Pain Medicine hopes further studies will improve the evidence base. “Cannabinoids cannot help all patients,” concludes Horlemann.

The BfArM regrets the lack of feedback

Moreover, the final report is not a scientific study, but rather a feedback from medical practices. The BfArM also regrets that the feedback from doctors is incomplete. Of a total of approximately 70,000 cannabis therapies approved by the statutory health insurance funds, only 21,000 have been reported to the BfArM. (vb)

Author and source information

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.

Author:

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek

Sources:

German Society for Pain Medicine eV: “Improvement of symptoms and quality of life with a good safety profile corresponds to practical experience” (Published: July 25, 2022), dg Pain Medicine.de Federal Institute of Medicines and medical devices: final report of the accompanying investigation according to § 31 paragraph 6 of the fifth book Social Code for the prescription and use of medical cannabis (PDF, published: 06.07.2022), bfarm.de

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.

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