Some rheumatoid arthritis patients say that using forms of medical marijuana eases the pain and inflammation they suffer from their condition.
Yet most doctors specializing in rheumatoid arthritis treatment were unaware that a growing body of research identifies medical marijuana's active ingredient, cannabinoids, as a possible arthritis treatment, according to a 2014 survey in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
The survey found that 3 of 4 rheumatology doctors in the sample group "lacked confidence in their knowledge of cannabinoid molecules," and that nearly half — 45 percent — "believed there was no current role for cannabinoids in rheumatology patient care."
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"With 70 percent never having previously prescribed or recommended any cannabinoid treatment," the study's authors wrote, "uncertainty regarding good prescribing practices was prevalent."
The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2015
that patient surveys and preclinical research increasingly point to cannabinoids as a bona fide therapy for rheumatoid arthritis as well as osteoarthritis.
Far earlier, in 2005, researchers found that Savitex
, a cannabis-based oral spray developed to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis, also showed promise in easing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Savitex, however, was not yet approved for any medical uses in the United States, reported the drug's British manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals.
But a recurring question in the medical marijuana debate is whether smoking pot is the best delivery method for cannabinoids.
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A 2014 study from Canada, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research,
cast doubt on the both the safety and effectiveness of herbal marijuana for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
The authors warned rheumatoligists against succumbing to the "societal groundswell" for medical marijuana and against prescribing it on demand for their patients.
Since the study, medical marijuana has become legal in several states plus the District of Columbia.
But the Canadian researchers deemed the clinical evidence scant for marijuana's effectiveness on rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, MedPage Today reported
The researchers also noted the absence of an accepted medical protocol for prescribing and administering medical marijuana, and cautioned that marijuana has well-documented side effects such as slowed reaction times and short-term memory lapses, MedPage Today reported.
Even a leading advocate of medical marijuana, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, agrees
that more clinical research would be helpful in buttressing claims for cannabinoids' use against rheumatoid arthritis.
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