Edmonton Journal: Aurora Cannabis and Mitacs partner to fund U of A research on effects of cannabis use in health care

New research by the University of Alberta will help demystify whether cannabis is a help or a hindrance to our health, in light of its imminent legalization.

The study will span more than three years, analyzing medical cannabis-using and non-using patients, and how their interactions with the health-care system compare.

“In the absence of clinical trials that would be ideal, this is probably the next best thing,” said Dean Eurich, program director for the clinical epidemiology program at the University of Alberta and Canada research chair in chronic disease prevention.

He will co-supervise two post-PhD trainees, a PhD student and an MSc student who are being funded by Mitacs Canada, a non-profit research organization.

Mitacs has partnered with Aurora Cannabis, a Canadian producer of medical cannabis, but all the funding the students receive is solely from Mitacs to keep their research independent.

Over 29,000 patients out of Ontario who have been prescribed medical cannabis by their physicians will be analyzed, and for every one medical cannabis user, the study has found two non-users for comparison.

“We’ve tried to take similar patients as far as their age, their sex, their socio-economic status and some of their underlying health conditions and we matched them up as best we could,” Eurich said.

Researchers will be tracking each patient’s self-reported outcome measures such as pain or anxiety, as well as physician and hospital visits or mortality.

Patients who are using medical cannabis are doing so for a wide variety of reasons, said Eurich: “They’re using it for almost every major condition you can think of, but the big ones we’re seeing are musculoskeletal issues.”

These are injuries and disorders that affect the movement and musculoskeletal system of the human body, including nerves, muscles, tendons, discs and blood vessels.

Eurich said he hopes the study helps address the lack of research on the safety and possible health outcomes of medical cannabis.

By: Jane Skyrpnek