More than half of Parkinson's disease patients who use cannabis report clinical benefits.

More than half of Parkinson’s disease patients who use cannabis report clinical benefits.

With the legalization of medicinal cannabis in many parts of the world, there is growing interest in its use to treat symptoms of a variety of illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease (PD). According to the results of a survey of PD patients in Germany published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, more than 8% of PD patients used cannabis products, and more than half of those users (54%) reported a beneficial clinical effect.

“Medical cannabis was legally approved in Germany in 2017 for therapy-resistant symptoms in severely affected patients independent of diagnosis and without clinical evidence-based data,” said lead investigator Prof. Dr. med. Carsten Buhmann of the Department of Neurology at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany. “Patients with Parkinson’s disease who meet these criteria are eligible for medical cannabis, but there is little data on which type of cannabinoid and route of administration might be promising for which PD patient and which symptoms. We also don’t know how well the PD community is informed about medicinal cannabis, if they’ve tried it, and if so, how well it worked for them.”

The researchers wanted to assess patients’ perceptions of medicinal cannabis as well as the experiences of patients who were already using cannabis products. They conducted a nationwide, cross-sectional, questionnaire-based survey among members of the German Parkinson Association (Deutsche Parkinson Vereinigung e.V.), which has nearly 21,000 members and is the largest consortium of PD patients in German-speaking countries. Questionnaires were distributed in the investigators’ clinic and sent out with the association’s membership journal in April 2019.

Over 1,300 questionnaires were analyzed; the results revealed that the PD community was interested in medical cannabis, but knowledge about different types of products was limited. Only 51% of respondents were aware of the legality of medicinal cannabis, and 28% were aware of the various routes of administration (inhaling versus oral administration), but only 9% were aware of the distinction between THC and CBD.

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