Game changer medication could relieve chronic pain but it faces challenges
Painkillers: Doctor on effectiveness of opioids for chronic pain
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Describing the study, the only one of its kind to gain regulatory approval in the UK, Samios sayid: “We’ve designed [it] to collect data from patients through every stage of the treatment plan.”
Samios says the study will be a “game changer in bridging the gap between evidence and making change using a rigorous scientific approach” providing “reliable data that is essentially missing”.
Data here is another way of saying evidence, one of the most significant hurdles facing pro-medicinal cannabis campaigners.
However, it’s important to note the problem is not the lack of evidence, there is plenty of evidence cannabis is effective at helping patients with a number of conditions including, potentially, cancer.
Moreover, the problem lies in the type of evidence.
A significant proportion of medicinal cannabis related evidence has been done through RWESs (real world evidence studies).
The problem is the likes of NICE, MHRA, and the NHS require RCTs (randomised control trials) involving the use of a placebo with which to measure a medicine’s effectiveness.
Another key barrier is education, due to high levels of stigma in the 20th and early-21st Century, there has been a lack of education among GPs.
Subsequently, in order to protect their patients, GPs won’t prescribe a product or medicine they don’t understand themselves.
Education, stigma, and the type of evidence collated are just three challenges facing cannabis-based medicines.
All this is occurring while patients who could benefit from the plant are suffering.
Samios describes chronic pain in the UK as a “very large unmet need”, one that must be met to give patients more options and a chance of living pain free.
While pain relieving medications are available on the NHS, not all work and some on prescription are prohibitively expensive.
Furthermore, pro-medicinal cannabis officials claim cannabis could save the NHS money, helping to relieve some of the pressure from a health system suffering under the weight of over a decade of cuts, staff losses, and a pandemic.
Pierre van Weperen, CEO of Grow Pharma, said: “These patients on average cost the NHS £15,000 per year each and that includes medication, consultation, doctor visits, pain clinics, A&E submissions etc.
“If you were to review those patients and see what you could do with reducing those opioids and replacing that with cannabis, we could probably take care of a lot of those patients for half the money.”
Across a large patient sample, the right cannabinoid medicine could not only improve a patient’s quality of life but also provide the NHS more financial bandwidth to spend money on other areas of care.
However, this sounds promising, a lot needs to change before this can happen.
There needs to be a collaborative approach from both sides and a recognition of the most important goal, the improvement of patients’ wellbeing.
This will come from well-resourced teams working together to make progress.
For some this is more than a matter of ideology; it is a matter of being able to live free from the burden of chronic pain.
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