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Herbal Cannabis Product Found Safe for Pain Control; Longer Follow-Up Needed

Ware MA, Wang T, Shapiro S, Collet JP; COMPASS study team. J Pain. 2015 Sep 16. pii: S1526-5900(15)00837-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2015.07.014. [Epub ahead of print]

Is medical cannabis generally safe to use for pain control? Although it’s widely used by patients with a wide range of symptoms and diseases, cannabis has not been systematically evaluated for its safety in this setting, according to investigators in this Canadian study. Accordingly, the investigators prospectively studied an herbal cannabis product, as part of a monitored treatment program, in 215 individuals with chronic pain who were currently using cannabis or had used it in the past. For comparison, they looked at 216 control subjects who had chronic pain but were not using cannabis. The investigators did find an increased risk of non-serious adverse events (mainly mild to moderate in severity) in the group of patients using the cannabis product; however, the risk of serious adverse events was similar between the two groups. Based on this experience, the investigators concluded that quality-controlled herbal cannabis seems to have a reasonable safety profile when used in the context of a monitored medical treatment program for over one year. However, they called for longer-term monitoring to see whether cannabis improves functional outcomes in patients.