Study Examines Impact of Medical Cannabis on Pain Intensity, Well-being in Fibromyalgia

Patients with fibromyalgia are turning to medical cannabis to improve sleep problems and other negative effects, according to a poster presentation at ACR Convergence 2021, the American College of Rheumatology’s annual meeting.

Patients with fibromyalgia experience a multitude of symptoms that aggravate pain and negatively impact well-being, which are often unresponsive to currently available treatments. As a result, patients are increasingly turning to alternative therapies, including medical cannabis, to treat these symptoms. However, there are insufficient data demonstrating the perceived benefits of medical cannabis for this patient population.

Researchers also have not been able to determine which factors lead to continuation of medical cannabis treatment, or, conversely, why patients decide to discontinue treatment with medical cannabis.

In the current study,1 investigators aimed to examine whether changes in negative affect—such as anxiety and depression—and sleep problems influenced pain intensity and well-being following the onset of a medical cannabis regimen, as well as the factors that influenced patients with fibromyalgia to continue treatment with medical cannabis.

The study included 308 patients with fibromyalgia, 87% of whom were women (mean age: 52.3±12.9 years), and 54.3% of whom were using a combination of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Investigators reported significant improvements in pain intensity and well-being with the initiation of medical cannabis. Data showed that pain intensity decreased with reductions in negative affect and sleep problems. Improvements in well-being were facilitated by reductions in negative affect and pain intensity, authors wrote.

As for the continuation of medical cannabis treatment, the likelihood of treatment discontinuation was higher among patients with more acute pain and negative affect, “but was unrelated to the degree of improvement in these symptoms over the course of [medical cannabis] treatment,” the authors wrote. At 3 months, 74% of patients had continued their medical cannabis treatment; however, 58.8%, 39.6%, and 23.1% did the same at 6, 9, and 12 months into the treatment course, respectively.

“Our findings suggest that reductions in negative affect and sleep problems are important contributors to improvements in pain intensity and well-being among [patients with fibromyalgia] using [medical cannabis],” the authors concluded. “Discontinuation of [medical cannabis] was more common among those with higher levels of pain and negative affect, but was not related to symptom improvement.”

Disclosures: Multiple authors report industry relationships. For a full list of disclosures, see the full abstract.

Reference

  1. Martel M, Waldman L, Sotoodeh R, et al. Factors associated with pain reduction and improved well-being among Fibromyalgia patients using medical cannabis. Presented at: ACR Convergence 2021; November 3-9, 2021. Abstract 0476.