Doctors from a cannabis medical clinic in Montreal will conduct a clinical trial on cannabis for pain in order to get medical insurance to cover the treatment.
The Montreal Gazette reports on Canadian history being made, as this will be the first trial of its kind to be conducted in this country. The clinic partnered with a pharmaceutical research company to recruit 500 plus patients to conduct a one-year trial on the safety and efficacy of cannabis for pain treatment. According to a representative of the company, Tetra Bio-Pharma, the price tag on the clinical trial will be $2 million. Patients will be recruited from the Montreal area.
Dr. Guy Chamberland, chief scientific officer, says that with most drugs there is no certainty. You have to plan and can only speculate on the outcome of testing, but he knows cannabis works, and to him, it is just a matter of finding objective proof and ticking the boxes.
Get cannabis treatment covered by medical insurance
The objective of the trial is to get a drug identification number from the North American regulators. This eight-digit code is the stamp of approval that a drug can be sold in pharmacies, and be covered by medical insurance.
Later this winter, another trial by Chamberland’s company, in conjunction with Algorithme Pharma, is going to gather data from 72 people to determine the safety of inhaled cannabis. The subjects will be paid to smoke cannabis through the day, while doctors observe them. Chamberland doesn’t foresee any problem in finding subjects.
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Pain patients to be monitored
In six months’ time, doctors will recruit patients using medical marijuana to treat chronic pain, to be monitored. The Physician’s college in Quebec only allows medical cannabis to be prescribed when all alternative routes have been unsuccessful. As a result, patients are often at their last resort and desperate by the time they get to the cannabis clinic.
Dr. Antonio Vigano says his area of specialty is cancer nutrition and rehabilitation. The people he sees suffer severe weight loss through loss of appetite and vomiting. They have severe pain constantly, and there is not much he can offer them to help, except cannabis.
Patients seek an alternative to opioids
Vigano works 10 hours a week at the clinic, and will oversee the study. He says the waiting room is always packed, and they receive on average of 200 inquiries a day.
Clinic director, Erin Prosk, says many people seek the clinic out in the hope of finding an alternative to opioids. Prolonged opioid use can lead to cognitive delay, is addictive, and can even be fatal. Some patients combine opioids and cannabis to reduce their opioid intake and avoid withdrawal.
Cannabis for pain
Prosk says she feels the work at the clinic is groundbreaking, and very important because the results from the studies could change the way cannabis for pain is seen. It is critical, though, that risks associated with cannabis use be monitored for one year. Her concern is that if cannabis becomes legal for recreational use, the medical program will just disappear.