Opioid-based medicines exist for the well-intended purpose of helping patients treat severe and chronic pain, but their drawbacks are becoming a cause of serious concern. Widespread problems with dependency, abuse, and overdoses are leading many to reconsider these commonly prescribed medications and seek safer alternatives. It should come as no surprise that medical cannabis is playing a prominent role in the conversation about how to create healthier and more sustainable solutions for patients in pain:
A handful of drugmakers are taking their first steps toward developing marijuana-based painkillers, alternatives to opioids that have led to widespread abuse and caused the U.S. health regulator to ask for a withdrawal of a popular drug this month.
The cannabis plant has been used for decades to manage pain and there are increasingly sophisticated marijuana products available across 29 U.S. states, as well as in the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal.
There are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved painkillers derived from marijuana, but companies such as Axim Biotechnologies, Nemus Bioscience and Intec Pharma have drugs in various stages of development. [Fortune]
Though medical cannabis is widely viewed as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs, there exists tremendous potential for cannabis to become a pivotal factor in the development of future prescription medications. The expanding availability of medical cannabis products through state-regulated programs has demonstrated a range of benefits, including a reputation for safety among patients that contrasts sharply with that of prescription opioid drugs. Rather than viewing cannabis as competition, it makes sense that pharmaceutical companies are beginning to embrace its positive reputation and potential to replace medicines whose dangers are becoming increasingly clear.
Through our own experience working with patients suffering from severe pain, it’s easy to understand why so many are seeking alternatives to opioids. Chronic conditions require long-term treatment and patients frequently report to us that extended use of strong prescription pain relievers created serious consequences for them. We’ve heard from patients who developed problems with dependency and others whose doctors recommended medical cannabis because their continuing use of opioids was becoming hazardous to their health. Moreover, many patients have observed that they simply feel healthier and more alert when using medical cannabis to treat their pain.
As new states continue to launch regulated medical cannabis programs and pharmaceutical companies begin to explore cannabis-based approaches, new opportunities emerge to examine what roles cannabis medicine can play in providing a safer treatment option for patients in pain. As always, we’ll be following these events closely and sharing the latest news here as it develops.
Important Note: It is critical for patients using opioids and other medications to consult closely with their doctors before making any changes to their treatment plan. While many have reported positive outcomes through medical cannabis treatment, we strongly recommend that patients discuss their plans with their recommending physician and any other medical professionals involved in their ongoing care.