U of A study explores using cannabis as a potential treatment for arthritis


University of Alberta researchers are investigating whether cannabis can be used as a potential treatment for arthritis. The two-year project aims to develop a decision tool to help arthritis patients and health providers decide if cannabis products would be an effective option for treatment.

"The tool has to be patient-centric and focused on (the patient's) needs, so that pharmacists and physicians and their patients can have an open discussion and make an educated decision about use," said co-principal investigator Elaine Yacyshyn, who's a rheumatologist at the University of Alberta Hospital.

The study has received $300,000 in funding from Alberta Innovates through its mCannabis.RealWorld program. It aims to address urgent clinical or policy knowledge gaps related to the "efficacy and safety of cannabis in a real-world setting."

"Both patients and health professionals need tools to make decisions about what is the safest, most appropriate and most affordable use," said U of A professor Cheryl Sadowski, who's co-leading the study.

In Canada, arthritis is a common disease that affects one in five people. The Canadian Medical Association said that although cannabis may offer patients relief, the lack of clinical research and regulatory oversight for cannabis as a medical treatment is still a concern.

A University of Alberta research project is investigating cannabis as a potential treatment for arthritis. (Courtesy of Unsplash/Richard T)

A University of Alberta research project is investigating cannabis as a potential treatment for arthritis. (Courtesy of Unsplash/Richard T)

According to Sadowski, who also provides care at the geriatric outpatient clinic at Edmonton's Misericordia Community Hospital, people with arthritis are more likely than others to use cannabis for pain, mood and sleep disorders. Sadowski said she's noticed many of her patients have started using cannabis on their own since Canada authorized cannabis for recreational purposes in 2018.

In addition to Alberta Innovates, other partners on the research project include the Arthritis Society, Alberta Health Services, and the Institute of Health Economics (IHE) as well as medical cannabis data company Strainprint.

Alberta Innovates also granted funds to two other U of A research projects, which both aim to better understand the benefits and risks of cannabis. The total amount of funding for all three projects is nearly $900,000.