“It’s not a blanket solution for everything but that’s the way it’s being presented — it’s the new ‘miracle drug’ — but that’s not what the data shows”
A group of New Zealand physicians who specialize in pain management are expressing concern that the efficacity of cannabis in chronic pain treatment has been vastly overstated and may give some patients unrealistic expectations.
The country’s Ministry of Health has developed a new set of proposed guidelines with regard to how physicians can prescribe medical cannabis. The guidelines have been released to the public to solicit feedback.
Dr. John Alchin, a pain management specialist in Christchurch, says a recent, wide-scale scientific review of the effects of pain in non-cancerous patients showed that the drug was ineffective for the majority of patients and that there are other, more effective medications than cannabis when it comes to treating chronic pain.
“You have to treat 24 patients to find one patient who has a 30 percent or more reduction in their pain, 23 out of 24 patients won’t even get a 30 percent reduction in their pain,” Dr. Alchin told Newsie.
Dr. Alchin doesn’t dismiss the efficacy of cannabis in treating other illnesses such as symptoms of multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, and some forms of epilepsy in children. However, he cautions that cannabis has been overhyped as a cure-all, regardless of the patient’s diagnosis.
“It’s not a blanket solution for everything but that’s the way it’s being presented — it’s the new ‘miracle drug’ — but that’s not what the data shows,” he told Newsie.
Published in The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, a recent systemic review of studies of cannabinoid treatment for non-cancer chronic pain (CNCP) supports Dr. Alchin’s statements.
“Evidence for effectiveness of cannabinoids in CNCP is limited,” the study concludes. “Effects suggest that number needed to treat to benefit is high, and number needed to treat to harm is low, with limited impact on other domains. It seems unlikely that cannabinoids are highly effective medicines for CNCP.”
New Zealand is currently preparing for a 2020 referendum on the legalization of cannabis, after passing laws last year that made medical cannabis more accessible to patients.
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Written by Emma Spears