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Dec. 12, 2019

Older adults might benefit from cannabis treatment for chronic pain, sleep difficulties, PTSD, nausea, reduced appetite, and other ailments that are not adequately controlled with current medically approved therapies, according to researchers at BGU and the Cannabis Clinical Research Institute at Soroka University Medical Center.

In the new study, “Medical Cannabis for Older Patients—Treatment Protocol and Initial Results," published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, the researchers present a new pragmatic treatment protocol, developed in collaboration with NiaMedic Healthcare & Research Services Ltd.

“Since well-established and evaluated protocols for treatment of older adults with medical cannabis do not exist, we developed our own approach based on close follow-up of effects, adverse events, and slow introduction of THC oil, CBD oil or a combination," (Figure 3 below) says Dr. Ran Abuhasira of the BGU Faculty of Health Sciences and Soroka's Cannabis Clinical Research Institute.
Figure 3.png
Figure 3

In the paper, the researchers present a roadmap for evaluation of symptoms and the possible potential of cannabis to alleviate these symptoms (Figure 2 below). During the study period, 184 patients with the median age of 82 began cannabis treatment at a specialized geriatric clinic. After six months of treatment, 58.1% of the patients were still using cannabis.
Figure 2.png
Figure 2

Of these, 84.8% reported moderate to significant degrees of improvement in their general condition. 33.6% reported adverse events, the most common of which were dizziness (12.1%) and sleepiness and fatigue (11.2%).

The treatment protocols urge special caution in older adults in case of multiple drug interactions, pharmacokinetic changes, nervous system impairment, and increased cardiovascular risk.

“Once treatment is initiated and the therapeutic dose is achieved, we recommend at least monthly follow-up at first to assess adverse events and treatment efficacy," Dr. Abuhasira says. “If treatment is effective and well-tolerated, consideration can then be given to revising the current concomitant drug regimen, especially with respect to the use and dosage of opioids, benzodiazepines and other psychotropic or analgesic medications.

“Our experience shows that cannabis has the potential to lead to a reduction in the use of these medications. Therefore, we call for the implementation of our protocol in clinical practice to evaluate the benefit of cannabis treatment."

This research was partially funded by NiaMedic, a medical data company offering healthcare, research and consultation services, and specializing in integrating medical cannabis treatment with conventional care in older adults. NiaMedic had no influence on the data collection, analysis or manuscript preparation.

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