More than half of cannabis-consuming Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients report experiencing clinical benefits, according to a survey.
According to the results of a survey conducted in Germany and published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, more than 8 percent of PD patients reported using cannabis to mitigate symptoms, 54 percent of whom indicated a beneficial clinical effect.
Medical Cannabis in Germany
In Germany, patients can acquire THC-rich medicinal cannabis products with a prescription when other conventional therapies are unsuccessful in treating the condition or are not well-tolerated.
Cannabidiol (CBD) products are available from pharmacies and internet sites without a prescription.
Lead investigator Prof. Dr. med. Carsten Buhmann says that Germany began permitting medical cannabis in 2017 when approval was obtained for therapy-resistant symptoms in severely affected patients, independent of diagnosis and lacking evidence-based clinical data.
“PD patients fulfilling these criteria are entitled to be prescribed medical cannabis, but there are few data about which type of cannabinoid and which route of administration might be promising for which PD patient and which symptoms,” says Buhmann. “We also lack information about the extent to which the PD community is informed about medicinal cannabis and whether they have tried cannabis and, if so, with what result.”
Buhmann’s team conducted the cross-sectional, questionnaire-based survey with members of the German Parkinson Association, reportedly the largest group of PD patients in German-speaking countries with approximately 21,000 members.
Investigators distributed surveys at their clinic, and GPA included copies with its membership journal in April 2019.
Investigators focused on assessing patient perceptions of medical cannabis and evaluating the experiences of those already using it.
High Interest, Low Information
Analysis of 1,300 questionnaires revealed a strong interest in medical cannabis but a lack of knowledge of product types.
Fifty-one percent of respondents indicated that they were aware of legal medicinal cannabis, and 28 percent knew about administration methods such as inhalation and ingestion.
Only nine percent knew the difference between cannabinoids.
Buhmann says that the data confirms that PD patients have a high interest in medical cannabis treatment but lack the knowledge of the difference between THC and CBD and how to use them.
“Physicians should consider these aspects when advising their patients about treatment with medicinal cannabis,” says Buhmann. “The data reported here may help physicians decide which patients could benefit, which symptoms could be addressed, and which type of cannabinoid and route of administration might be suitable.”
According to Buhmann, cannabis intake may be related to a placebo effect due to high patient expectations and conditioning, which could be considered therapeutic.
Benefits For PD Patients
More than 40 percent of users reported that medicinal cannabis helped them manage pain and muscle cramps.
More than 20 percent reported a reduction in stiffness, freezing, tremors, depression, anxiety, and restless legs.
According to patient responses, inhaled cannabis products containing THC were more effective in treating stiffness than oral CBD products but were slightly less well tolerated.
Sixty-five percent of non-users showed interest in using medical cannabis but reported a lack of knowledge of its use and fear of side effects as reasons for abstaining.
While findings indicate widespread interest in medical cannabis among PD patients, Buhman says that they come from subjective reports and that clinically-appropriate studies are urgently needed.