Medical marijuana studies reviewed

May help with chronic pain and spasticity


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Moderate quality evidence supporting the use of cannabinoids to treat chronic pain and spasticity was found to exist in this review of 28 databases covering studies of the effectiveness of cannabinoids in treating different conditions.


A multinational team of scientists reviewed and analysed the current research literature in an attempt to determine whether or not cannabis and cannabinoid drugs are effective, and in what ways.


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Cannabis and cannabinoid drugs are widely used to treat disease or alleviate symptoms, but their efficacy for specific indications is not clear.



To conduct a systematic review of the benefits and adverse events (AEs) of cannabinoids.



Twenty-eight databases from inception to April 2015.



Randomized clinical trials of cannabinoids for the following indications: nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, appetite stimulation in HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or paraplegia, depression, anxiety disorder, sleep disorder, psychosis, glaucoma, or Tourette syndrome.



Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. All review stages were conducted independently by 2 reviewers. Where possible, data were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis.



Patient-relevant/disease-specific outcomes, activities of daily living, quality of life, global impression of change, and AEs.



A total of 79 trials (6462 participants) were included; 4 were judged at low risk of bias. Most trials showed improvement in symptoms associated with cannabinoids but these associations did not reach statistical significance in all trials. Compared with placebo, cannabinoids were associated with a greater average number of patients showing a complete nausea and vomiting response (47% vs 20%; odds ratio [OR], 3.82 [95% CI, 1.55-9.42]; 3 trials), reduction in pain (37% vs 31%; OR, 1.41 [95% CI, 0.99-2.00]; 8 trials), a greater average reduction in numerical rating scale pain assessment (on a 0-10-point scale; weighted mean difference [WMD], -0.46 [95% CI, -0.80 to -0.11]; 6 trials), and average reduction in the Ashworth spasticity scale (WMD, -0.36 [95% CI, -0.69 to -0.05]; 7 trials). There was an increased risk of short-term AEs with cannabinoids, including serious AEs. Common AEs included dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, somnolence, euphoria, vomiting, disorientation, drowsiness, confusion, loss of balance, and hallucination.



There was moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity. There was low-quality evidence suggesting that cannabinoids were associated with improvements in nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, weight gain in HIV infection, sleep disorders, and Tourette syndrome. Cannabinoids were associated with an increased risk of short-term AEs.


Summary for patients in

JAMA PATIENT PAGE. Medical Marijuana. [JAMA. 2015]


SOURCE: JAMA. 2015 Jun 23-30;313(24):2456-73. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.6358. PMID: 26103030 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]


Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.


Whiting PF1, Wolff RF2, Deshpande S2, Di Nisio M3, Duffy S2, Hernandez AV4, Keurentjes JC5, Lang S2, Misso K2, Ryder S2, Schmidlkofer S6, Westwood M2,Kleijnen J7.


  • 1School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom2The National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West at University Hospitals, Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.
  • 2Kleijnen Systematic Reviews Ltd, Escrick, York, United Kingdom.
  • 3Department of Medical, Oral, and Biotechnological Sciences, University “G. D’Annunzio” of Chieti-Pescara, Chieti, Italy5Department of Vascular Medicine, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • 4Medical School, Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), Lima, Peru7Health Outcomes and Clinical Epidemiology Section, Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio.
  • 5Department of Pathology, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
  • 6Institut für Epidemiologie und kongenitale Erkrankungen, Cepicon GmbH, Hamburg, Germany.
  • 7Kleijnen Systematic Reviews Ltd, Escrick, York, United Kingdom10School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.


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