Safety and Effectiveness of Cannabinoids to Danish Patients with Treatment Refractory Chronic Pain - A Retrospective Observational Real-world Study

Tina Horsted, Karoline Lichon Hesthaven, Peter Derek Christian Leutscher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Cannabinoids are considered a therapeutic option to patients suffering from treatment refractory chronic pain (TRCP) insufficiently relieved by conventional analgesics or experiencing intolerable adverse events (AEs) from those. This study aimed to explore safety and effectiveness of oral cannabinoids among patients with TRCP. Methods: A retrospective study was conducted among Danish patients with TRCP being prescribed oral cannabinoids. Data on AEs and changes in pain intensity by numeric rating scale (NRS) before and after initiation of oral cannabinoid therapy were analysed. Results: Among 826 eligible patients ≥18 years old, 529 (64%) were included for data analysis at first follow-up (F/U1) (median 56 days from baseline) and 214 (26%) for second follow-up (F/U2) (median 126 days from F/U1). Mean age was 60 ± 15.9 years and 70% were females. AEs were in general reported mild to moderate by 42% of patients at F/U1 and 34% at F/U2. AEs were mainly related to gastrointestinal (F/U1: 17% and F/U2: 13%) and nervous system disorders (F/U1: 14% and F/U2: 11%). Reduction in NRS was significantly different at both follow-up consultations compared with baseline (<0.0001). Clinically relevant pain reduction (NRS ≥30%) was reported by 17% at F/U1 and 10% of patients at F/U2 in intention-to-treat analysis whereas the figures were 32% and 45% respectively, in per-protocol analysis. Conclusion: Oral cannabinoid therapy seems to be safe and mildly effective in patients with TRCP. Randomized controlled trials with focus on comparable pain characteristics in diagnostical homogenous patient subgroups are needed for further improvement of evidence level for relief of chronic pain using oral cannabinoids. Significance: The findings in this retrospective study conducted in a real-world clinical setting suggest a favourable safety profile of cannabinoids. Moreover, one-sixth (intention-to-treat) and one-third (per-protocol) of patients with chronic pain refractory to conventional analgesics, or experiencing intolerable adverse effects, benefited significantly from therapy with oral cannabinoid regimens. Combination of THC and CBD seems overall more effective than cannabinoid monotherapy. Conduction of randomized controlled trials investigating safety and efficacy of cannabinoid therapy to diagnosis specific patient subgroups with comparable clinical and pathophysiological chronic pain characteristics is warranted, hence contributing further to the process of clinical evidence clarification currently in progress.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)234-247
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. European Journal of Pain published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Pain Federation - EFIC ®.


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