1 Medicinal Marijuana: Closing the gap between anecdotal benefits and evidence-based research Jonathan Kiesman, Pharmacist CanniMed Ltd.
2 Presenter Disclosure Presenter: Jonathan Kiesman Relationship with Commercial interest: Employed as a Pharmacist at CanniMed Ltd.
3 Mitigating Potential Bias Jonathan is a Pharmacist with 20 years experience in outpatient Pharmacy settings. Prairie Plant Systems Inc, parent company of CanniMed Ltd, has been working with and providing medical marijuana to Health Canada since The parent company has provided product for clinical trials and have on-going clinical trials. Generic names will be used.
4 Female Cannabis Flowers Page, 2014
5 Introduction Marijuana (cannabis) contains compounds called cannabinoids. (THC and CBD) Perceived association of cannabinoids = recreational marijuana gives rise to a lot of misconception It wasn t until the mid-1990s that scientists discovered why marijuana is reported to work so well, and for so many different illnesses. The discovery was a natural system in the human body called the endo-cannabinoid system. The body produces many of it s own endogenous cannabinoid signalling molecules, 2 most studied are: Anandamide (AEA) 2-AG
6 Introduction The endo-cannabinoid system is similar to the body s opioid system: natural endorphins (natural opioids), act on opioid receptors, same as synthetic drugs: morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone, etc. Similarily, AEA and 2-AG (natural CB s) attach to the body s endo-cannabinoid receptors, same as cannabinoids found in medical cannabis. The main cannabinoid receptors in the body are CB1 and CB2 receptors.
7 Cannabis (marijuana) Cannabinoids(THC/CBD) supplied by medication (nabilone, sativex) or medical plant-based cannabis Cannabinoid receptors found in brain, CNS, liver, kidney, pancreas Effects on human body
8 The (Phyto) cannabinoids There are more than 110 known cannabinoids, and 400 molecules identified in the cannabis plant The major cannabinoids are:
9 THC and CBD The two most researched substances in medical marijuana are: Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Cannabidiol (CBD) Consistent THC/CBD ratio = Consistent health benefits THC: Literature cited for psychoactive, immunosuppressive, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of medical marijuana. CBD: Responsible for anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-nausea, anti-emetic, anti-psychotic, antiischemic, anxiolytic, and anti-epileptic effects. CBD THC
10 9 -Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) The main active ingredient in drug forms of cannabis (marijuana) is 9 - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) A CB1-receptor antagonist THC produces many of the psychoactive effects of cannabis Suggested therapeutic effects Analgesic Antiemetic Appetite stimulant Anti-spastic activity Gaoni and Mechoulam, 1964; Joy et al, 1999
11 Cannabidiol (CBD) A CB2 receptor agonist Second most important cannabinoid after THC Literature cited indications: Anti-inflammatory Neuro-protective Anxiolytic Anti-epileptic Antipsychotic May attenuate memory-impairment effects of THC Role in treating pediatric epilepsy? (Dravet syndrome) Hampson et al, 1998; Leweke et al, 2012; Mechoulam et al, 2007; Pertwee, 2008
12 Off-label indications/emerging evidence: Nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy Chronic pain (neuropathic pain in MS and cancer) Anorexia associated with HIV/AIDS PTSD Anxiety Insomnia Spasticity Lower Urinary tract symptoms (MS) Improving bladder symptoms associated with MS Neuropathic/nociceptive/mixed pain Chronic daily headache Fibromyalgia Anorexia and cachexia Spasticity Epilepsy Cannabinoid Indications
13 Dosing and Administration Cannabis requires heat to activate THC and CBD General principle: start low/go slow Keep dose as low as possible using the least amount necessary to control symptoms and titrate slowly 1.5 grams/ day is the average daily dose as seen at CanniMed (Health Canada indicated grams/day) Using 12% THC material = 50mg THC/day
14 Dosing and Administration Inhaled Smoking (not recommended) Vaporizing (recommended) Fastest onset of action (5 min-1/2 hr) for both smoking and vaporizing. Shorter duration of action Oral and Edibles Prescription cannabinoid capsules: Cesamet (Nabilone) Ingested via tinctures, teas, oils, baking Slower onset of action (1-3) Longer duration of action (8-12 hrs) Spray Sativex ( nabiximols 1:1 ratio of THC: CBD) Sprayed under the tongue or inside of cheek. Max effect at 1-2 hrs.
15 Vaporizing vs Smoking Ideal and fast for those in pain. Rapid onset and short duration only achieved through inhaled delivery
16 Vapourizing in Hospital settings? IN THE MEDIA: Charles Bury's marijuana use in Quebec hospital stirs debate Charles Bury, long-time editor of Sherbrooke Record, vaporizes marijuana to deal with Stage 4 liver cancer. Bury uses medically prescribed marijuana in his hospital room with a vaporizer, which emits little odour and no smoke, to help curb his anxiety. CBC News Posted: Jan 09, :52 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 09, :44 PM ET Canadian Hospitals Prepare To Allow Medical Marijuana Huffington Post/Metro/CBC/Leaf Science, Jan. 9, 2014 Alberta Health Services: AHS is looking at developing a process to support patients who are treated with medical marijuana in our facilities Huffington Post/Metro/CBC/Leaf Science, jan.9, 2014 Currently is accommodated in a negative-pressure room, which are currently rarely available in most Canadian hospitals.
17 Dosing Start low and go slow Average dose: 1 to 2 grams daily when smoked or vapourized Vapourization: At a lower temperature, cannabinoids are vapourized without burning plant matter. The Volcano Medic is the only vapourizer approved as a medical device by Health Canada
18 Dosing considerations Inhaled delivery: more desirable for acute symptoms: nausea, appetite stimulation, sleep initiation, seizures, spontaneous neuropathic pain episodes Oral, edibles and spray delivery: More desirable for persistent symptoms: chronic pain, sleep maintenance, spasticity Patient must consume approx. 2.5X more for same effect as inhalation 4,5 4. Grotenhermen F. Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of cannabinoids. Clin Pharmacokinet. 2003;42: Zuurman, L., Ippel, A. E., Moin, E., and van Gerven, J. M. (2009). Biomarkers for the effects of cannabis and THC in healthy volunteers. Br.J.Clin.Pharmacol. 67: 5-21.
19 Possible side effects Risk of serious side effects are relatively low compared with other prescription drugs. However, evaluating safety data has been complicated due to the illegal status of cannabis. Drowsiness Dizziness Dry mouth Fatigue Increased heart rate Postural hypotension Delayed fetal growth Excreted in breast milk Caution driving under the influence
20 Contraindications Contraindications Hypersensitivity to any cannabinoid Hypersensitivity to smoking Psychotic disorders (particularly schizophrenia) Warnings Pregnant or nursing women- highly recommended not to use cannabinoids as it may effect development of the fetus and nervous system Potential for dependence and abuse Do not drive or operate machinery
21 Medical marijuana is not recommended for some patients Those who are: Are nursing, pregnant, or planning to conceive are highly recommended not to use cannabinoids
22 Use with Caution in patients with: Cardiac disorder (hypertension, hypotension, History of substance abuse or dependency Mania or depression Multiple drug therapy (may be a CYP 3A4 and CYP2C9 liver enzyme inhibitor?) Respiratory illness Pediatric and elderly populations (due to lack of knowledge/experience about use)
23 Addiction Potential of Cannabis? Thought to have a high abuse potential Ability to produce dependence is less than alcohol or nicotine and some drugs such as diazepam, morphine and phenobarbital 21 Approx. 10% of regular cannabis users become addicted 21 Addiction potential may be even less when cannabis is used for medical purposes, similar to some other drugs with addiction potential. Cohen, PJ. Medical Marijuana: the conflict between scientific evidence and political ideology Part one of two. J Pain Palliat.Care Pharmacother. 2009; 23:4-25
24 Research and Evidence
25 Limitations of Available Data Most studies are small, much data is anecdotal, preclinical, animal/in vitro. Number of studies which actually use medical cannabis plant as opposed to a commercially available THC/CBD product is low. It is not known if this data can be extrapolated to medical cannabis? Difficulty for researchers to get approval to work with cannabis due to it s illegal status. No controlled trials comparing smoked cannabis with oral THC or other analgesic agents
26 Results: a single inhalation of 25mg of 9.4% THC herbal cannabis three times a day for 5 days reduced intensity of pain, improved sleep and was well tolerated. Ware, M. A., Wang, T., Shapiro, S., Robinson, A. and others. (2010). Smoked cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 182: E694-E701
27 Palliative Care Cannabis...may be useful in alleviating a wide variety of single or co-occurring symptoms often encountered in the palliative care setting; these symptoms include intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, anorexia/cachexia, severe intractable pain, severe depressed mood, and insomnia 208. The use of cannabinoids for palliative care may also result in a decrease in the number of medications used by this patient population. 208 Taken from Health Canada s: Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the cannabinoids, pg Sutton, IR and Daeninck, P. (2006) Cannabinoids in the management of intractable chemotherapyinduced nausea and vomiting and cancer-related pain.
28 Cannabis in Palliative Medicine: Improving Care and Reducing Opioid-Related Morbidity AM J HOSP PALLIAT CARE August 2011 vol. 28 no Abstract Unlike hospice, long-term drug safety is an important issue in palliative medicine. Opioids may produce significant morbidity. Cannabis is a safer alternative with broad applicability for palliative care. Yet the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies cannabis as Schedule I (dangerous, without medical uses). Dronabinol, a Schedule III prescription drug, is 100% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Cannabis contains 20% THC or less but has other therapeutic cannabinoids, all working together to produce therapeutic effects. As palliative medicine grows, so does the need to reclassify cannabis. This article provides an evidence-based overview and comparison of cannabis and opioids. Using this foundation, an argument is made for reclassifying cannabis in the context of improving palliative care and reducing opioid-related morbidity
29 Nausea and vomiting Health Canada Page 35: While chemotherapy-induced vomiting generally appears to be well-controlled with current first-line therapies, the associated acute, delayed, or anticipatory nausea remain more poorly controlled and the use of cannabis/cannabinoids may provide some measure of benefit in certain cases. 88, Parker, L. A., Rock, E., and Limebeer, C. (2010). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. Br.J.Pharmacol.163: Soderpalm, A. H., Schuster, A., and de, Wit H. (2001). Antiemetic efficacy of smoked marijuana: subjective and behavioral effects on nausea induced by syrup of ipecac.pharmacol.biochem.behav. 69:
30 Nausea and Vomiting Health Canada Page 36: Patients who smoked cannabis showed a % relief from nausea and vomiting, while those who used a Δ9-THC capsule experienced 76-88% relief (191). Plasma levels of >10ng/mL Δ9-THC were associated with the greatest suppression of nausea and vomiting, although levels ranging between 5 and 10 ng/ml were also effective Musty, R and Rossi, R. (2001). Effects of smoked cannabis and oral delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol on nausea and emesis after cancer chemotherapy: A review of state clinical trials. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. 1:
31 Health Canada, Page 51: Cancer Pain The opioid-sparing effect refers to the ability of a nonopioid medication to confer adjunctive analgesia with the use of a lower dose of the opioid thereby decreasing opioid-associated side effects. While there are some preclinical data supporting such an effect for cannabinoids, this is less well-established in published clinical studies.
32 Cancer Pain continued. Health Canada, Page 51: Findings suggest the existence of cross-talk between the cannabinoid and opioid systems. Furthermore, pre-clinical studies using a combination of different opioids (morphine, codeine) and cannabinoids (THC), at acute or sub-effective doses, have reported additive and even synergisticanalgesic effects (515,516,517,518,519,520) Welch, S. P. and Stevens, D. L. (1992). Antinociceptive activity of intrathecally administered cannabinoids alone, and in combination with morphine, in mice. J.Pharmacol.Exp. Ther. 262: Pugh, G., Jr., Smith, P. B., Dombrowski, D. S., and Welch, S. P. (1996). The role of endogenous opioids in enhancing the antinociception produced by the combination of delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol and morphine in the spinalcord. J.Pharmacol.Exp.Ther. 279: Smith, F. L., Cichewicz, D., Martin, Z. L., and Welch, S. P. (1998). The enhancement of morphine antinociception in mice by delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Pharmacol.Biochem. Behav. 60: Cichewicz, D. L. and McCarthy, E. A. (2003). Antinociceptive synergy between delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol and opioids after oral administration. J.Pharmacol.Exp.Ther. 304: Cichewicz, D. L. (2004). Synergistic interactions betweencannabinoid and opioid analgesics. Life Sci. 74: Smith, P. A., Selley, D. E., Sim-Selley, L. J., and Welch, S. P. (2007).Low dose combination of morphine and delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol circumvents antinociceptive tolerance and apparent desensitization of receptors. Eur.J.Pharmacol. 571:
33 CANCER THERAPY Pre-clinical evidence that CB may inhibit tumor growth. J.P. Marcu, et al: THC and CBD work together to slow tumour growth more effectively than when they are applied individually. Delta(9)-THC and cannabidiol acted synergistically to inhibit cell proliferation. The treatment of glioblastoma cells with both compounds led to significant modulations of the cell cycle and induction of reactive oxygen species and apoptosis as well as specific modulations of extracellular signal-regulated kinase and caspase activity. Marcu, JP, Christian RT, Lau, D, Zielinski, AJ et al, (2010) Cannabidiol enhances the inhibitory effects of delta9-thc on human glioblastoma cell proliferation and survival Mol.Cancer Ther. 9:
34 Cancer Therapy continued Delta(9)-Tetrahydrocannabinol inhibited tumour-cell proliferation in vitro and decreased tumour-cell Ki67 immuno-staining when administered to two patients. M.Guzman et al. RGuzman, M. Duarte, MJ, Blazque, C., Ravina, J. and others (2006). A pilot clinical study of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme. Br.J.Cancer. 95:
35 Summary and Concluding remarks Therapeutic cannabinoids may be a safe and effective option to consider for patients experiencing chronic pain, cancer-associated anorexia, or nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Additive effects may allow for dose reduction of concomitant analgesics such as opioids. Abuse potential is relatively low. (approx. 10% of users) New evidence is emerging, pointing to efficacy of CB to treat conditions such as epilepsy, spasticity, headache, PTSD, anxiety, and insomnia.
36 Summary and Concluding remarks Medical cannabis should be considered when conventional medicine is not enough Cannabis should be considered in same context as other pharmaceuticals, opioids for example, that have: Important medical value However also may have significant side effects and potential for abuse.
37 Resources Health Canada information about the new regulations is available at: Information for Healthcare Professionals is available at
38 Questions? Jonathan Kiesman, Pharmacist CanniMed Ltd.
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