A new paper highlights what UK patients would like to see prioritised as research around cannabis and its therapeutic potential develops.
The research around cannabis for medicinal purposes is rapidly expanding, with a record number of papers published in 2021.
However, to date the majority of the agendas have been set by the industry or academia, rather than those who have lived-experience of the treatment as a patient or carer.
In a first for the field, scientists aimed to tackle this by asking patients directly what they deem to be important areas for further research moving forward.
A team of researchers associated with Sapphire Medical Clinics asked a group of 30 medical cannabis patients undergoing treatment for a range of health conditions to take part in focus groups between December 2021-February 2022.
The outcomes were then used to determine what they thought should be prioritised as the science around the plant and its therapeutic potential develops.
Patients’ priorities for research
Patients predominantly wanted to see more research on specific conditions and symptoms, assigning the highest proportion of research funding to ‘assessment of effect on specific symptoms’.
Other key themes which were identified were: adverse events, comparison between cannabis-based medicinal products, pharmacology of cannabis, types of study, agriculture and manufacturing.
There was also an emphasis on the need for more research into the social impact of cannabis such as knowledge of medical cannabis among healthcare professionals, stigma, and effects on driving and in the workplace.
Dr Simon Erridge, head of research at Sapphire Clinics and co-author of the study, said he hoped the findings would be useful for government funders, when setting future research agendas.
“As we cover in the study there is a real lack of previous attempts to try and characterise what patient priorities are when it comes to biomedical research and we’re glad to provide the first contribution to the literature on this with respect to medical cannabis,” he commented.
“We really hope this will provide a platform to government funders as to the types of research patients want to see.”
Hearing the perspectives of all patients
Dr Erridge also acknowledged that the study was limited to those who hold a legal prescription for cannabis in the UK and may not be representative of those who are still using the illicit market due to cost or other barriers.
A recent YouGov poll commissioned by Sapphire Clinics estimated that approximately 1.8million people are still self-medicating with cannabis in the UK.
“We completely accept that the inclusion criteria may limit the views to those who have a legal prescription and in fact we cover this as a limitation within the study itself that the research may not be fully representative of all individuals,” he continued.
“Unfortunately in order to ensure that the study stood up to scrutiny from the scientific community we needed a robust recruitment plan, which could only at the present time be limited to those with a legal prescription.”
He added that more research was ongoing which would include all of those using cannabis for medicinal purposes, however they are accessing it.
“With our collaborators we have a diverse spectrum of research ongoing which incorporates those with a legal prescription and those without, so watch this space moving forward,” he said.
This article was originally featured on Cannabis Health News.