A significant proportion of Minnesotans with intractable pain who are taking medicinal cannabis are seeing a pain reduction of 30% or more.
Intractable pain is severe and constant pain that can’t be cured by any known means and it’s often treated with opioids; leading to a risk of dependence, abuse and side effects.
In 2016, intractable pain was added to the list of qualifying conditions for the use of medicinal cannabis in Minnesota. Between August 1 and December 31 2016, 2,245 intractable pain patients enrolled in the state’s program. The most common ailments were axial back pain (23%), radicular back pain (14%), fibromyalgia/myofascial pain (10%), neuropathy (8%) and osteoarthritis (7%).
A study published last week that was conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health looked at the results for this initial group.
Among those who responded to the patient (54% response rate) and health care practitioner (40% response rate) surveys, a high level of benefit was reported by 61% and 43%, respectively; relaying scores of 6 or 7 on a 7-point scale.
Just 10% of patients and 24% of health care practitioners reported scores of 1, 2 or 3 (little or no benefit).
Forty-two percent of patients experiencing moderate to high pain levels reported a pain reduction of thirty percent or more.
Another interesting outcome was 63% of the 353 patients who self-reported taking opioid medications when beginning to take medical cannabis reduced or eliminated opioid use after six months.
This positive result has been seen in other pain-related studies, including one out of University of Michigan in 2016 that found patients using medical cannabis to manage chronic pain experienced a 64 percent reduction in their use of prescription opioid-based medications.
For the Minnesota group, while 40 percent of patients reported adverse side effects (with 90 percent stating side effects were mild to moderate), there were no serious events deemed life threatening or requiring hospitalisation reported during the observation period.
“We need additional and more rigorous study, but these results are clinically significant and promising for both pain treatment and reducing opioid dependence,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
The full study report can be viewed here (PDF)