October 9, 2014 8:26 am
Updated: October 9, 2014 11:19 am

Calls for more research into medical marijuana

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Watch above: Medical marijuana a possible treatment for arthritis sufferers

SASKATOON – Changes to how Canadians can access medical cannabis has health organizations sounding the alarm and calling on more research to be done to determine its safety.

Specifically for the 4.5 million Canadians suffering from arthritis who say they’re living in pain and want access to a variety of treatments.

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Working with children suffering from arthritis since the early 80’s, Dr. Alan Rosenberg, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan says the chronic disease is even greater in Saskatchewan, with numbers higher than the national average.

“There’s been huge advances in understanding and treating arthritis but the medications we have available are still not quite as effective or safe as we would like so it’s natural to explore other possibilities,” explained Rosenberg.

Read more: Marijuana should be legalized and regulated: CAMH

According to experts, of the 40,000 Canadians who have accessed medical cannabis in the past, over two-thirds of those using it did so to treat the pain of arthritis.

“Until the regime change in June of 2013, the way people got access to medical cannabis was through a direct authorization from Health Canada and in June of 2013, the rules changed and now people need a prescription from a physician,” said Janet Yale, president and CEO of The Arthritis Society.

Doctors used to making decisions on how to treat patients based on the evidence available to them are now left in a difficult situation since they don’t know enough about the drug.

“Physicians don’t really know what form, what dosage to prescribe and for which kinds of arthritis because of that lack of evidence,” explained Yale.

Once active components within the plant are identified, Rosenberg see how marijuana could play a very important role in medicine in being beneficial to people living with arthritis.

“It’s important to know that cannabis the plant has many different components to it, one component is THC which is the psychoactive component, the component that causes our moods to change.”

Rosenberg points out there are other components of the plant that don’t have that affect but rather control pain and inflammations.

 “It’s possible to isolate those anti-pain, anti-inflammation properties without having any adverse effects.”

The company who supplied Health Canada with medical marijuana for more than 75,000 patients over the course of 14 years says it hopes to close the gap by conducting a clinical trial this fall.

“I’m hoping what this clinical trial does is help to shore up some that information so there’s a bit more understanding so when it comes to prescribe anything there’s a greater understanding and a greater depth, greater confidence to which this particular drug could administered to patients in their time of need,” explained Brent Zettl, president and CEO of CanniMed Ltd.

The trial, a double blind placebo controlled clinical trial registered with Health Canada, is to begin in November.

Rosenberg said he be happy to contribute to research in the field as experts are always looking for a cure and prevention.

“I think we have an obligation here, the limiting factor is not desire, or time or ingenuity, it’s money and that’s why the arthritis society’s involvement and all the donors who contribute to the arthritis society are so critical in this process.”

The Arthritis Society says as part of its 2015 research program at least one project if not more will be in the area of clinical trials for medical cannabis.

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