More than two-thirds of cancer patients who were prescribed medical marijuana to combat pain are satisfied with the treatment, according to a comprehensive new study from Israel.
The study involved 264 cancer patients who were treated with medical marijuana for a full year, reports Dan Even at Haaretz. The research was conducted at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, in conjunction with the Israeli Cancer Association.
About 61 percent of the patients reported a significant improvement in their quality of life as a result of the medical marijuana, while 56 percent noting an improvement in their ability to manage pain. Two-third — 67 percent — were in favor of the treatment, and 65 percent said they would recommend it to other patients.
The findings were presented this month at an Israeli Oncologists Union conference in Eilat, Israel. The study was led by Dr. Ilo Wolf, director of oncology at the Sheba Cancer Center, with the assistance of researchers Yasmin Leshem, Damien Urbach, Adato Berliz, Tamar Ben Ephraim and Meital Gerty.
|Israeli medical marijuana patients manicuring their cannabis|
The most common types of cancer for which medical marijuana is prescribed are lunger cancer (21 percent), breast cancer (12 percent) and pancreatic cancer (10 percent), according to the study.
Researchers found that an average of 325 days passed between the time that patients were diagnosed with cancer and the time that they submitted permit requests to grow or possess medical marijuana. About 81 percent of those requests cited pain resulting from the illness. Some 8 percent of patients requested medicinal cannabis to combat nausea, while another 8 percent complained of weakness.
But most cancer patients currently being treated with medical marijuana in Israel are advised of that option only in the advanced stages of the illness, according to the researchers.
“The treatment should be offered to the patients in earlier stages of cancer,” the report notes.
According to the study, 39 percent of respondents were initially advised of the treatment by friends, other patients, or the media, rather than by their doctors.
“The treatment should be offered to patients by trained medical teams because we are dealing with an effective treatment,” the report said.
What few side effects resulted from the regular use of medical cannabis were defined as “moderate.” Dizzines was the main side effect documented by the researchers.
“Medical marijuana has become one of the treatments available to cancer patients in Israel in recent years [and therefore]the association beliefs that the issue should be regulated by the professionals in the field,” said Miri Ziv, director of the Israeli Cancer Association.
The number of medical marijuana patients in Israel has increased by about 66 percent per year in recent years, according to the study. Medical marijuana has been approved for use by about 6,000 Israelis suffering from various illnesses, according to the report.
Many legal issues related to medical marijuana remain unsolved, but Health Ministry officials believe that once the area is “fully regulated,” the number of patients treated with medical marijuana in Israel will reach 40,000.
Seven of the 12 farms authorized to grow medical cannabis are currently active in Israel, according to the report. Under a Health Ministry directive, the distribution centers currently operating are entitled to NIS 360 a month, per patient, to supply medical marijuana. They are entitled to another NIS 24 for rolling it into joints, and NIS 100 for delivery.
Patients who have medical marijuana permits issued before 2009 are eligible to grow up to 10 plants at home, with a maximum height of 1.5 meters (under five feet). Permits issued during the past two years only allow patients to possess medical marijuana “in keeping with the quantities prescribed.”