Study Finds Little Data on Medical Cannabis in Children

Study Finds Little Data on Medical Cannabis in Children

By Staff.

A systemic review of published studies found that there is a notable lack of studies on the use of medical cannabis in children, and a minimal number of randomized, controlled trials, which are needed to confirm the effectiveness of this treatment.  The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.  Investigators from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) including Shane Shucheng Wong, MD, and Timothy Wilens, MD report that their review suggests only two pediatric uses of medical cannabis – to relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and to reduce seizures – are supported by existing studies.

“Medical cannabis is now legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and in those areas with active programs, children and adolescents can legally access medical cannabis with certification from their doctor and consent from a parent or guardian,” says lead author Wong. “This means that doctors and families need to understand what we know and what we don’t yet know about medical cannabis in order to make the best decision for the health of the individual child.”

Two synthetic cannabinoids have been approved for medical use in the U.S., both of which mimic a form of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for the “high” of recreational cannabis use. Dronabinol (Marinol) is approved to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in both children and adults, while the pediatric use of nabilone (Cesamet) carries a caution. A third cannabinoid, cannabidiol, is currently in phase 3 trials for treatment of seizures.

The researchers followed established procedures in searching for studies of medical cannabis use listed in major research indexes and selected out those that primarily enrolled participants aged 18 and under and included original data about a clinical use. Only 21 papers reporting on a total of 22 studies met their criteria. The papers were published from 1979 to 2017, 14 within the last five years. Only 5 were randomized controlled trials, the others being case reports, open-label trials, parent surveys or case series. The most common conditions studied were chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (6 studies) and seizures (11 studies).

The trials for chemotherapy side effects – 4 of which were randomized controlled trials – found that medical cannabis was significantly better than anti-nausea drugs standard at the time of study for reducing nausea and vomiting. Similarly the epilepsy studies, including a single randomized trial, found that medical cannabis reduced the frequency of seizures in participants, some with treatment-resistant seizures. Limitations of these studies include lack of a control group for many, small sample size, differences in the medications used and lack of long-term follow-up.

Two studies investigating the use of cannabis for spasticity and three case report on use for neuropathic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder or Tourette syndrome all lacked controls or blinding, conferring a high risk of biased findings. “At this time,” Wong says, “we do not have good evidence that cannabis can be useful in children and adolescents for any conditions other than seizures or chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.”

The authors note, additional research is needed to better understand the risks and long-term effects of cannabis-based drugs in this population.

When asked how he would advise the parents of a child with a condition that could be alleviated with medical cannabis, Wong said, “I would recommend they have a thorough discussion of the risks and benefits with a physician who has specialized knowledge and experience in the area. For chemotherapy side effects, that could be a pediatric oncologist or palliative care specialist; for seizures, that could be a pediatric neurologist, especially at an academic medical center involved in the ongoing clinical trials of medical cannabis for seizure disorders.”

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Authored by: Staff

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Ibin at 9:11 am

    The data, “official” statistics of medically used cannabis will never be accurately reported on for monetary reason. Personal monetary reason, in my opinion. A Mother or Father does not have to have data, for a child or lived one, that has a disease or injury, that cannabis products, can…..and do help with disease and other symptoms. Word of mouth for decades and decades is the best and only documentation for powerless parents, family members and loved ones.Word of mouth, from the folks that have successfully used cannabis products but, until the proper route, monetarly is found, cannabis is still “bad” for us. Jeff said “good people don’t smoke marijuana”.. U would, Jeff, if cannabis properties helped you or one of yours.
    People, patients…..lost to medical science per year, is at a reported rate of approximately 2.5 million folks, per year. I do not know if this number includes geraitric, or not. A reported 56, 000 lost their lives with “opioids” in their bloodstream in 2015. Yet, the patients that medically should…….receive appropriate, adequate care with prescribed medical opioid medication are the biggest cause of opioid use death?
    NO one wishes to see a loved one in eternal pain. Lifetime pain. I would bet there is recorded, documented beneficial use of cannabis products. It’s simply that the documentation is not recognized, “officially”. Just as my physician knows, knew, how badly “policy” would affect patients, it don’t count. 40 odd thousand doctors, in my state have been made powerless to prescribe, one doctor and their family, at a time. Willfull negligence, criminal negligence through “policy”?

  2. dodo at 6:46 am

    Tell it to the dea and federal government. Tell it to cngress and lets see if they have any guts to reschedule

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