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Canadian study highlights impact of medical marijuana on veterans with PTSD


TORONTO — A new study from Canadian medical cannabis producer MedReleaf is highlighting the potential of its medical marijuana strains in helping veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. MedReleaf shared the results of its study Tuesday at the seventh annual Military and Veteran Health Research Forum.


The study, conducted by Dr. Paul Smith, used several of the company’s proprietary strains — among them AviDekel, Luminarium and Midnight — and tracked patients from baseline to a follow-up between three and 18 months after being prescribed an average of 9.4 grams of medical cannabis daily. Smith found that among the 100 veterans in the study, there was an 82% reduction in drug and alcohol overuse, a 77% decrease in suicidal thoughts and an aggregate improvement of PTSD symptoms and social impacts of 59%. 


“Seventy percent of veterans are dropping out of traditional PTSD programs in favor of a medical cannabis course of treatment and as the evidence overwhelmingly shows, it is remarkably effective,” Smith said. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to effective cannabis dosing but I believe that when veterans get VAC coverage for cannabis oils and capsules, we'll see more veterans turn to this treatment and I think that with these new, accurate dosing methods of delivery we'll see a reduction in the amount of cannabis required for a course of treatment."


The study noted that 59 patients in the study were taking an average of 3.2 PTSD-related medications at their baseline visit, and by follow-up, 36% had discontinued the use of all these medications. Another 19 discontinued some of them, while 14 had no change and 5 added medications. The savings estimated for the 21 patients who completely discontinued PTSD medications therapies rand from $48,600 to $78,600 annually, depending on price and dose — a savings of between $2,300 and $3,800 per patient per year. Patients taking two or more medications dropped from 55% at baseline to 31% at follow-up. 


"The evidence is overwhelming that cannabis is dramatically improving the lives of veterans with PTSD," noted Neil Closner, CEO of MedReleaf. "We're encouraged by Dr. Smith's work; it provides valuable insight and data that will assist the broader healthcare community in their quest to help veterans better manage their healthcare needs." Smith plans to submit the study for peer review the goal of publication in the Journal of Veteran, Military and Family Health.


Retail pharmacy in Canada has shown increased interest in dispensing medical marijuana in the last year. In April the Canadian Pharmacist Association called for pharmacists to play an active role in dispensing, and in October, Canada’s largest retail pharmacy chain, Shopper’s Drug Mart, applied for a production license with the goal of dispensing medical marijuana. 


"We believe that allowing medical marijuana to be dispensed through pharmacy would increase access, safety, quality and security for the thousands of Canadians who use the drug as part of their medication therapy," Tammy Smitham, VP external communication for Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart told Drug Store News in October. "We have applied to be a licensed producer strictly for the purposes of distributing medical marijuana. We have no intention of producing medical marijuana but we do want the ability to dispense medical marijuana to our patients in conjunction with counselling from a pharmacist and we are hopeful that the Government of Canada will embrace that opportunity for enhanced patient care."


In DSN’s latest poll, 59% of 702 respondents said they think a community pharmacy is an appropriate setting for a licensed medical marijuana dispensary. 


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