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Legal Red Tape on Cannabis Research Inflames Arthritis Sufferers

Differing state laws are seen as a barrier to accessing potential therapy for pain and healing.




CreakyJoints is an international digital community for millions of arthritis patients and caregivers seeking education, support, advocacy and patient-centered research. PHOTO BUSiNESSWIRE

In the United States, one in four adults, or 58.5 million Americans, suffer from the inflammatory disease arthritis. Eight million working-age adults report that their ability to perform their job is limited because of arthritis – with annual costs for medical care and lost earnings of $303.5 billion. A new review article titled “Cannabis for Rheumatic Disease Pain: A Review of Current Literature” published in Current Rheumatology Reports points to the still-scattershot legal status of medical marijuana as leaving arthritis sufferers in vaguery and cannabis research stifled.

The article by researchers at CreakyJoints, a digital community for arthritis patients and caregivers, says there has been limited progress in studying the potential of cannabis-based therapies for rheumatic conditions. Like many cannabis businesses, clinical research has run into barriers of differing federal and state regulations affecting approval and funding. In the past few years, research on cannabis therapies for osteoarthritis has been scant and the few studies and clinical trials on humans small and unstandardized, according to the article.

The legal red tape has patients losing out. While there is strong, preclinical evidence showing that cannabis-based products alleviate pain and reduce inflammation from osteoarthritis, the article says, cannabis’ legal status has stymied the broader education of physicians. Without clinical data, there has been a reluctance among physicians to accept cannabis therapies.

“In 2019, CreakyJoints presented data from our ArthritisPower Research Registry study showing more than half of arthritis patients reported wanting information on or actually had tried marijuana and/or cannabidiol products for a purpose they perceived as medical and yet, three years later, there’s been virtually no advancement in the research necessary to provide clinical evidence to rheumatologists and patients,” said W. Benjamin Nowell, PhD, Director, Patient-Centered Research at CreakyJoints, principal investigator of the ArthritisPower Research Registry. “Without this research, it is impossible to develop clinical guidelines for medicinal cannabis in the U.S.”

Small steps with state legalization
Not all is bad news. CreakyJoints’ research that found legalization at the state level has promoted changing attitudes about the use of medical cannabis and that first step – shy of FDA approval – has already benefitted patients. Previously, many patients were reluctant to disclose an interest in cannabis therapies or their use of cannabis to their clinicians.

“Although the clinical evidence about cannabis for rheumatic disease pain is lacking, it is nevertheless important to educate patients about the known benefits and risks of alternative treatments, including medical cannabis. As a rheumatologist who treats patients with pain, I am aware that some of my patients have found cannabis to be an effective option when traditional medications fail to reduce their pain,” said Dr. Stuart Silverman, MD, rheumatologist, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA School of Medicine.


CreakyJoints is a patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions, as well as arthritis and other rheumatologic ailments. The ArthritisPower mobile and desktop application allows patients to track their disease and participate in voluntary research studies in a secure and accessible manner. Results from ArthritisPower studies are frequently published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at medical meetings in the U.S. and around the world. To learn more and join ArthritisPower, visit, or in Spanish here.



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