Updated: Mar 24
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A November 2022 British study entitled "Patient Priorities for Research: A Focus Group Study of UK Medical Cannabis Patients" that was published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice stated its primary aim as determining "priorities for research from medical cannabis patients in the United Kingdom."
The study explained that the United Kingdom (U.K.) in November 2018 legalized medical cannabis for prescription under the guidance of a specialist physician. "However, despite changes in legislation, there remains a paucity of high-quality evidence to determine the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis," observed the researchers.
"This is the first study which attempts to assess the research priorities of medical cannabis patients," declared the study's authors.
The design of the study was that of a series of three focus groups held between December 2021 and February 2022 involving 30 patients in the U.K. undergoing active treatment with medical cannabis for health conditions. The study's authors conducted an "inductive thematic analysis" of the patient responses collected during the focus groups.
"The study's analysis of the data collected during the focus groups identified "a total of nine themes and 39 sub-themes within three domains."
The mean age of participants was 45, with 12 females and 18 males, 80 percent of whom were white British. They were recruited from Sapphire Medical Clinics (the first regulated medical cannabis clinic to treat patients across all four nations in the U.K.) via email invitation. Inclusion criteria required participants to be 18 or older and current medical cannabis patients "having at least one prescription documented in their health records within the previous three months."
The study's analysis of the data collected during the focus groups identified "a total of nine themes and 39 sub-themes within three domains: Clinical, Barriers, and Development, as shown in the schematic below.
Interestingly, the study performed an analysis of cannabis research in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and "found that the highest proportion of funding was provided toward assessing the adverse effects of cannabis and potential for misuse."
Clinical Research Needs
The Clinical domain featured patients expressing their belief that there is a need for more research into potential negative symptoms from medical cannabis, a better understanding of real-world cannabis products available to patients, and the particular conditions and disorders that might most benefit from treatment with medical cannabis. Patients also cited a need for a better understanding of the biochemistry and pharmacology of cannabis and how it interacts with the human body.
"Patient participants identified a number of barriers to medical cannabis research, including healthcare professional attitudes, their lack of knowledge, and the role of stigma."
Barriers to Research
Patient participants identified a number of barriers to medical cannabis research, including healthcare professional attitudes, their lack of knowledge, and the role of stigma. They also said that additional research is necessary regarding the role of medical cannabis in daily living, including potential influences on driving and medicating outside of the house or at work.
Participants identified the need to "advance the development of manufacturing and agriculture," as well importance of identifying "novel strategies to improve availability of medical cannabis." This included home cultivation, irradiation, various aspects of manufacturing, and waste reduction.
Another area identified by participants was the need to better understand "the cannabis plant itself, including its constitutive structures (leaves, roots, flower) and the compounds they contain."
"Clinically, there was a directive toward ensuring that research is either condition- or symptom-specific," reported the scientists, who noted that the highest priority conditions were chronic pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The most prominent research priorities for medical cannabis patients were clinical effects on specific conditions, symptoms, or health-related quality of life. In addition, the study found that medical cannabis patients "perceive themselves to be subject to stigma," in both the United Kingdom and also internationally.
"The current funding patterns in the U.K. award a higher proportion of money toward studies that assess the associated harms of cannabis."
The study concluded that, clinically, there is "a directive toward ensuring that research is either condition- or symptom-specific" and that this contrasts with "the current funding patterns in the U.K. which award a higher proportion of [money] toward studies that assess the associated harms of cannabis."
"These findings can help guide both research funders and researchers alike into effectively implementing research which fits within a more patient-centric model," declared the study's authors.
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