Using Medical Cannabis to Reduce Harms associated with Long-Term Opioid Use in Chronic Pain

The UK Medical Cannabis Registry publishes outcomes of patients prescribed medical cannabis for chronic pain

Pain severity and interference with quality of life improves with relative safety in the medium-term following prescription of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs)

The international peer reviewed journal ‘Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology’ has today published new data from The UK Medical Cannabis Registry on the first group of UK chronic pain patients treated with medical cannabis. 190 patients were included in the final analysis detailing medium-term quality of life and safety data in patients prescribed Cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) by specialists at Sapphire Medical Clinics.

Patient-reported outcome measures following treatment with CBMPs found statistically significant improvements in health-related quality of life in patients at one, three and six months following treatment. Additionally, significant improvements in patients’ pain severity and interference were also found at each individual time period. In addition to specific improvement in pain-specific outcomes, this patient group also experienced improvements in self-reported sleep quality and anxiety. Due to the study design, it was unable to definitively prove that CBMPs were the cause of the resultant change.

Patient demographics were split evenly between male and female participants (55% and 45% respectively) with a mean age of 48. Exactly half of the patients (50%) had never used cannabis. The most common primary diagnosis was chronic non-cancer pain (52%), followed by neuropathic pain (23%) and fibromyalgia (16%). Many findings from this research echo those of observational studies in Canada and Germany, as well as the previously published findings from the UK Medical Cannabis Registry on patients prescribed cannabis-based oil products for chronic pain.

Unlike acute pain, chronic pain, defined as persistent or recurring pain lasting longer than 3 months, is challenging to manage and pharmacological therapies (such as opioids) lack high quality evidence to support their use in treatment and are associated with increased harm. Research into CBMPs as a therapeutic option in the management of chronic pain, therefore, continues to gain interest.

These findings come at the same time as the Sapphire Access Scheme expands to offer a further 2,000 patients’ affordable access to medical cannabis consultations. The Sapphire Access Scheme allows patients to be included for free in the UK Medical Cannabis Registry in addition to receiving access to appointments with experts in chronic conditions and medical cannabis for £50 per appointment. The Registry was the first such database in the UK and has been set up by clinicians at Sapphire Medical Clinics, a multi-award-winning medical cannabis clinic, and the highest CQC-rated clinic of its kind. They have also published outcomes related to health-related quality of life across all conditions. Medical cannabis was legalised in November 2018 and can be prescribed by specialist doctors when conventional therapy has not provided adequate symptom relief for conditions such as pain, anxiety, and multiple sclerosis.


Dr Simon Erridge, Head of Research and Access at Sapphire Medical Clinics, commented: “With the increasing number of prescriptions for medical cannabis in the UK, capturing patient outcomes and Real-World Evidence is essential for wider understanding and appropriate access for eligible patients. This is particularly true considering recent guidance from The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which aims to use Real-World Evidence to accelerate patient access to medicines through supporting clinical trials. The UK Medical Cannabis Registry hopes to play a leading role in this process.”