A recent study from University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf Department of Neurology showed promising results in Parkinson's disease patients who used medical cannabis to treat symptoms.
Researchers at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf Department of Neurology (Hamburg, Germany) recently released the findings of their study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease (1), which sought to find a connection between medical cannabis and Parkinson’s disease (2). According to the findings, 61% of Parkinson’s patients who used medical cannabis, either with cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), reported a beneficial clinical effect.
Around 8.4% of Parkinson’s patients used cannabis to manage the symptoms caused from the neurodegenerative disorder (3). Most patients in the study were young, resided in large cities, and had a stronger knowledge of the legal and clinical aspects of medical cannabis. The study revealed that 54% of patients who used oral CBD reported symptom improvement along with the 68% of patients who were using inhaled THC. In comparison to oral CBD intake, THC inhalation was found to be more frequently reported to reduce akinesia, which is temporary muscle loss linked to Parkinson’s disease, and stiffness.
The article in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease stated (2):“Reduction of pain and muscle cramps was reported by more than 40% of cannabis users. Stiffness/akinesia, freezing, tremor, depression, anxiety and restless legs syndrome subjectively improved for more than 20% and overall tolerability was good.”
Aside from the clinical benefits found in the study, researchers wanted to find out if patients expressed interest in using medical cannabis to treat symptoms. Using questionnaires that were distributed nationwide through the membership journal of the German Parkinson Association, 65% of Parkinson’s patients expressed intrigue in using the medicinal plant. Researchers analyzed more than 1300 questionnaires in the study.
Dr. Carsten Buhmann, lead author of the study and a Department of Neurology professor, discussed with SciTechDaily (2) how Germany has allowed medical cannabis to be used since 2017 for “therapy-resistant symptoms in severely affected patients independent of diagnoses and without clinical evidence-based data.”
“[Parkinson’s disease] patients fulfilling these criteria are entitled to be prescribed medical cannabis, but there are few data about which type of cannabinoid and which route of administration might be promising for which [Parkinson’s disease] patient and which symptoms,” said Buhman in the interview (2). “We also lack information about the extent to which the [Parkinson’s disease] community is informed about medicinal cannabis and whether they have tried cannabis and, if so, with what result.”
Bastiaan R. Bloem, MD, PhD, the director for the Radboudumc Center of Expertise for Parkinson & Movement Disorders and co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, mentioned that the results of the study were “interesting in that they confirm a widespread interest among (Parkinson’s) patients in the use of cannabis as a potential treatment,” (2).
More than 10 million people worldwide are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, with around 60,000 Americans diagnosed every year (4). Researchers like Buhmann and Bloem believe that more research is needed on medical cannabis to verify it as a therapy for the disease.