and cannabis-based medicines: Potential benefits and risks
A new report,
Cannabis and cannabis-based medicines: Potential benefits
and risks to health,
a working party report published by the Royal College of
Physicians, London, was released today.
A report of a
Royal College of Physicians (RCP) working party states that
the active ingredient of cannabis, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), appears to provide some benefit in the treatment of
certain illnesses but recommends further clinical trials.
The group studied the evidence around the medicinal uses of
cannabis and reviewed the benefits and risks associated with
cannabis-based medicines: Potential benefits and risks for
health recognises that there is scientific evidence to
support further studies of the use of THC in multiple
sclerosis and in the management of other forms of chronic
pain. The report, which is designed to inform both doctors
and patients, considers the pharmacological effect of
cannabinoids (a number of natural and synthetic compounds),
their efficacy in comparison with other medicines, the
results of clinical trials, the safety of cannabis and
possible links between cannabis and psychosis.
strongly discourages smoking cannabis as this may carry
similar risks to the lungs as smoking tobacco and recommends
that clinical trials to address the therapeutic value of THC
should be based on alternative methods of administration
such as in a capsule by mouth or by mouth spray. There is a
narrow window between the desired and undesired effects of
THC, which varies between individuals. Patients in clinical
trials who have been allowed to adjust the dose according to
their symptoms were able to avoid undesirable side effects
and did not show dependence on the drug.
One of the
major concerns, which has arisen from studies of the
recreational use of cannabis, is the risk of developing
psychosis, particularly amongst young people. The age group
most likely to receive cannabis-based medicines for
therapeutic use are older but nonetheless care should be
taken in administering these medicines to anyone with a
history of severe mental illness.
party also looked at research regarding the body's
production of cannabis-like substances. These substances
play a role in the regulation of appetite and of factors
that might influence heart disease and bone strength. This
research has the potential for the development of new
medicines for the treatment of obesity, heart disease and
Martin Wilkins, Chair of the Working Party and Professor of
Clinical Pharmacology at Imperial College London, said:
medicines are an active area of research and may offer new
treatments for the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, pain,
cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. It is appropriate
that these medicines are examined and developed through
carefully controlled clinical trials, in line with the
regulations governing the approval of new drugs."
terms of reference for the working party specifically
excluded a review of the recreational use of cannabis.