Study: Medical Marijuana Should Not Be Used to Treat Arthritis

Study: Medical Marijuana Should Not Be Used to Treat Arthritis

There is not enough scientific evidence for doctors to recommend that patients use medical marijuana to treat pain from rheumatoid arthritis, according to a researcher and rheumatologist at McGill University Health Center in Quebec, Canada.

“In the light of the current lack of concrete medical evidence for either the efficacy or risks of herbal cannabis for the management of rheumatic complaints, physicians are obligated to caution patients about the known risks of herbal cannabis that have been reported for recreational users,” wrote lead investigator Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles in an article published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

marijuana smokerPossible risks due to long term use of herbal cannabis include mental illness, dependence, addiction, effects on memory and cognition, and respiratory health problems,  according to Fitzcharles,

“At this time, we cannot recommend herbal cannabis for arthritis pain management given the lack of efficacy data, potential harm from the drug, and availability of other therapies for managing pain. Physicians should discourage rheumatology patients from using medical marijuana as a therapy,” she said.

Although medical marijuana has never been recommended by any rheumatology group, patients around the world are increasingly turning to cannabis to treat arthritis pain.

“Severe arthritis” is the diagnosis for nearly two thirds (65%) of Canadians authorized to possess cannabis for medicinal use. And up to a third of medical marijuana users in the United Kingdom and Australia also say they use cannabis to treat arthritis pain.

In the U.S. twenty states, including the District of Columbia (DC), have legalized cannabis for medical purposes.

Lori Berry started using marijuana to treat her arthritis pain about a year ago – and with good results.

“Amazingly it completely erased the pain for 4 to 6 hours. I was able to not take the Motrin or Vicodin and I was functioning well with little pain. And the marijuana has helped me eat so I don’t wind up in the hospital,” she said in an email to National Pain Report.

“My lovely doctor says she’s refusing to prescribe any more pain meds unless I sign a pain contact and give up the medical marijuana. I refuse.”

But just because a patient wants medical marijuana doesn’t mean it’s good for them, according to Fitzcharles.

“Simply acceding to patient demands for a treatment on the basis of popular advocacy, without comprehensive knowledge of an agent, does not adhere to the ethical standards of medical practice,” she wrote.

“While there is good evidence for efficacy of cannabinoids for treating some chronic pain conditions, such as cancer and neuropathic pain, these pain types have different underlying mechanism from the mostly peripheral/nociceptive pain in rheumatic diseases. Thus one cannot extrapolate efficacy to patients with rheumatic conditions.”

One small study did find that Sativex, a marijuana based oral spray, did provide a “significant analgesic effect” for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Authored by: Pat Anson, Editor

There are 9 comments for this article
  1. Anne Tischer at 6:27 am

    Lyrica, touted as the fibromyalgia miracle drug has a 6% effectivity rate in patients…look it up…for fibromyalgia sufferers in general only 30-35% respond well to any standard medication regimen. After 25 years with the disease I have taken anything prescribed to no avail & have tried every alternative therapy known to try to live my life in an optimal fashion with this disease…recently I have had to stop working because there is no respite from the pain. Medical marijuana is a must for me & for most of the people in my Fibromyalgia support group. It is cruel to deny the legal use of such a remedy…

  2. Chris at 2:48 pm

    I use a vaporizer instead of smoking it. You use less and the herb is stronger.
    I have chronic pain from a 4 level cervical fusion, an L4-5 back surgery, and PTSD. If I did not smoke, I would not sleep well, and I would live with spasms, all the time.
    It is relaxing, and it got me off of Kadian and oxycontin, which were constipating, and they affected my personality for the worse. I was crying all the time on all those narcotics. Not with the “ganja”.
    I have osteoperosis in my spine, and “herb”, is NOT exacerbating the pain at all, like this article insinuates.

    Everyone is different. What works for one may not for another. That being said, I would rather tale something that allows me to be able to “poop”, is not hurting my lungs (vaping) and it is not going to ever kill me.
    It is wrong that your insurance will drop you, if they find out you have a medical marijuana card. If it is a LEGAL card, then why can you drop us?

  3. buzz at 12:25 pm

    It’s the big Pharmas and the police state that are standing in the way of people getting relief. They both get Federal Dollars. Pharma gets obscene profits from others suffering. And the police get federal dollars for the “war on drugs.”

  4. Dennis Kinch at 4:25 pm

    Bill is absolutely right - especially since pain is a pandemic and the powers that be are unsuccessful getting a handle on it. In the past 5 years the numbers of people with chronic pain diseases has grown extensively despite all the restrictions and limits on meds. Open up the spicket and let us be the judge. Meds are a customized mix unique to the patient’s body type, personality, environment, childhood, genetics, etc. We know this. It has been proven time and again.
    Let the feds make sure the meds are safe from obvious hazards and let the person in pain be a legitimate user
    ( under a doctor’s care) then leak it into markets by region allowing patients to volunteer to take them, signing the waiver and after being referred by their doc as needing to try something radical.
    That’s pretty much how I found my mix (Neurontin, tramadol and morphine) which has helped me for 6 years now.

  5. Bill Halper at 5:22 pm

    When I read about various studies, the first thing I want to know is who is the underwriter. For example, there have been many articles on studies for Lyrica, Cymbalta that praises these “miracle drugs” as though it is a major break through for pain patients. The underwriter’s of these studies were the pharmaceutical companies! I agree that we are each unique, and with that, so is our pain. I have tried these medications. I experienced no relief from either. Instead I had to deal with some of the nasty side affects. I know others who have had similar reactions, and some who swear by them. My opinion has always been similar to Dave’s comment (#3 above). We the patients, given the opportunity, should be able to have access to those medications that may not be approved for pain. Let us be the judges on this as pain is a major life changer, and not for the better. Of course, those drugs have been tested for safety (our brain won’t explode as soon as we take the pill), and that those who are on them are experiencing pain, and under doctors care. In other words, “no druggies”! The more options, the better chance of finding relief!

  6. Alcir de Souza at 4:29 am

    Well….let me see….. doctors recommend smoking (cigarettes) of such or such brand…doctors say that cigarettes are not linked to lung cancer…if doctors smoke to relieve stress why not you…..and all the other payed LIES imposed by the medias and the obtuse and greedy status quo in order to benefit groups *tobacco,chemicals labs, law enforcement, military complex, politicians and drug dealers(redundancy) in all levels !

  7. Donna at 4:44 pm

    Which pharmaceutical company funded this study?

  8. dave at 3:54 pm

    People in pain should have access to treatments that work and not just treatments that satisfy researchers and government.
    Researchers and government are not the biggest stakeholders in pain care-people in pain are. People in pain have almost no say in what research is done or how it is conducted or how government and experts interpret and make use of such research. Research reflects the researchers interest in maintaining certain beliefs and methods used in research, FDA decisions regarding research- are not based on a case by case basis- and so research and decisions based on research is at a far remove from the needs of most individuals in pain.
    One way to change this is to mandate the right to effective treatments- which will mean access to what researchers and government consider “unproven treatments”.
    This will require better and more thorough assessment and treatment planning on the part of providers-and I suspect it is lack of effort on the part of providers that keeps people in pain from receiving a wider array of treatments that could work for them.

  9. Dennis Kinch at 12:27 pm

    OK, you’re too scared. So I’ll recommend it. I’ve personally talked to hundreds of patients who attest to its efficacy. Who knows why it works but for MANY, it does. Ironically, not me. We MUST get used to the idea that everyone is unique and what works for their pain should be celebrated. It should be the stepping stone to get the patients to act on the positive moment.

    For me, neurontin with IB 800’s were a miracle and I used the moment of less pain to start doing real PT and to change my negative habits. One stone, to the next, to the next. 7 million steps later, I was free of pain’s grip on my life…and it started with a drug used for epileptics being tested on pain patients!.

    Google my name and see that I know what I’m talking about, but will my findings ever see the light of day? I think not.
    So smoke up Shriners, and if it works for you, take advantage of the opportunity with less pain, to change your negative habits! And forget about these negative studies. Forgive them, for they know not what they’re talking about.