Pain most common reason for medical cannabis

February 24, 2021
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Almost three quarters of the people who receive cannabis medicines on prescription in Germany use them to treat pain. Of these patients, 70 percent perceive an improvement in symptoms. This is shown by the interim result of the accompanying cannabis survey of the BfArM (Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices).

What is medical cannabis used for?

With 73%, the lion’s share of all cannabis prescriptions in Germany is issued for the therapy of pain. This is followed at a great distance by the treatment of spasticity (10%), anorexia/wasting (6%) and other indications (10%). Doctors prescribe dronabinol in 65% of the cases, followed by cannabis flowers, Sativex, with an increasing tendency cannabis extracts and in last place nabilone.

Which specialist groups prescribe cannabis?

The largest group of doctors prescribing cannabis are pain physicians (anaesthesiologists) with a share of 49%. This is followed by general medicine (17%), neurology (12%) and internal medicine (10%).

How successful is cannabis therapy?

In the largest group of cannabis patients, those with pain as their primary symptom, 34% felt their pain was significantly improved and 36% felt it was moderately improved. Thus, medical cannabis was able to alleviate the suffering of a total of 70% of pain patients. 28% said their pain was unchanged.

Among people with multiple sclerosis as their main diagnosis, spasticity improved significantly in 41% and moderately in 43%.

35% of the cannabis patients discontinued their therapy within one year. In 25% of the cases, this was due to the side effects and in almost 40% due to insufficient effect of the therapy. In 21% of the cases, the person concerned died ­– this is also counted as a therapy discontinuation in the accompanying survey.

Private prescriptions not recorded

When looking at these results, it must always be kept in mind that the accompanying survey does not cover all patients treated with cannabis medicines in Germany: The data of self-payers, privately insured persons, inpatients and persons treated within the framework of clinical studies are not transmitted. Furthermore, no survey is compiled for persons who receive the finished medicinal products Sativex and Canemes according to the approved indications.

Accompanying cannabis survey – what is it?

In Germany, doctors who prescribe medical cannabis at the expense of the statutory health insurance are obliged to take part in an accompanying survey on the use of these medicinal products. The survey is conducted by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). After three years, this institute has drawn up an interim balance with more than 10,000 data sets that were available by the evaluation deadline on 11 May 2020. One year earlier, the BfArM had already published an interim result based on the data evaluated by then.

The objectives of the survey are the monitoring of side effects and the tolerability of cannabis products. In addition, the survey is to show for which indications cannabis is prescribed. The results should serve as a basis for the planning of later clinical studies.

 

Source:

Schmidt-Wolf, G., Cremer-Schaeffer, P. 3 Jahre Cannabis als Medizin – Zwischenergebnisse der Cannabisbegleiterhebung. Bundesgesundheitsbl (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00103-021-03285-1

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