For the millions of people around the world suffering the impacts of fibromyalgia, medical cannabis may offer some hope.
Fibromyalgia is chronic condition without a cure that involves among its many symptoms widespread pain in the muscles and bones. Its impacts can be anything from inconvenient to debilitating. Symptoms of the condition are sometimes managed with opioid-based medicines, which add issues of their own.
Anywhere between 2 – 5% of the population suffers from fibromyalgia, meaning it is a significant health issue. It also has a significant economic impact, with a study published in 2015 putting the mean annual cost per patient in the USA in the range of USD $2,274 to $9,573.
There has been growing interest in using medical cannabis as a potential treatment, particularly given the presence of the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD), which has anti-inflammatory attributes.
While there’s an appreciable amount of anecdotal evidence indicating cannabis can be beneficial, scientific studies are few and far between.
A recently published study that was carried out with a small group of fibromyalgia patients in Israel is starting to help build knowledge.
In the study, all 26 patients reported a significant improvement in all areas covered on the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, a commonly used tool in the evaluation of patients. Furthermore, half of those patients were able to stop taking their other medications. Only 30% of patients experienced adverse effects, which in all cases were mild.
There’s a lot more study needing to be done on the potential benefits of using medical cannabis in treating fibromyalgia. In December 2016, we reported Canada’s Arthritis Society had received a grant for research involving the use of oral cannabinoids in the management of the condition. Results from the study don’t appear to have been published yet, and it’s not clear if it has even yet begun.
In 2014, an online survey of more than 1,300 fibromyalgia patients conducted by the National Pain Foundation and National Pain Report found sixty-two percent who had tried cannabis reported it being very effective at treating their fibromyalgia symptoms. The survey report noted cannabis was considered more effective than any of the three prescription drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of fibromyalgia.