Australian researchers are preparing to conduct a 16-week study to explore whether cannabis can improve the quality of life in individuals suffering from dementia.
The trial, which will be carried out at the University of Notre Dame Institute for Health Research (IHR) in Perth, Western Australia, will involve 50 participants, all aged 65 or older, who have been diagnosed with mild dementia. The subjects will be given doses of CogniCann, an oral medical cannabis spray that is being provided by MGC Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli medical cannabis company that has operations in Europe, the UK, and Australia.
Although many cannabis-based medicines use THC or CBD in isolation, many researchers believe that the “entourage effect” created by combining multiple cannabinoids can be more effective than any individual cannabinoid on its own. Dr. Ethan Russo, director of research and development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, believes that a blend of THC and CBD can effectively treat symptoms of Alzheimer's, a common form of dementia. CogniCann follows this principle, using a specific THC to CBD ratio that has been specifically designed to treat dementia.
Experts believe that nearly 50 million people around the world currently suffer from dementia. That number is expected to double over the next 40 years. This disorder can cause psychotic symptoms, aggression, and agitation, and doctors typically prescribe traditional sedative medications for these symptoms.
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Lead researcher Dr. Amanda Timler told Sunrise that she expects the study to prove that medical cannabis can help dementia sufferers reduce their dosage of these medications, thereby improving their overall quality of life. "We think cannabis is going to help ameliorate behavioral signs and symptoms we see from dementia," she explained. "It's one of those medications that will treat a number of symptoms compared with typically being diagnosed with dementia and taking a number of different drugs."
“Research initiatives into dementia is also a national priority, so we are very excited to work with MGC and the aged care sector to trial this novel approach to improve the quality of life for the almost 350,000 Australians suffering [from] this disease that currently has no cure,” IHR director and professor Jim Codde said, Clinical Trials Arena reports.
“Planning for the study has been incredibly extensive and involved other key stakeholders including medical experts, aged care practitioners, and our ethics committee to ensure the well-being of participants throughout the study,” said Codde to the Daily Mail.
The study was initially approved by the University of Notre Dame's Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) back in 2018, but the full rollout of the trial was delayed while researchers sought the approval of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Now that approval has been granted, the University of Notre Dame is now recruiting subjects for the 16-week double-blind trial, which is expected to begin within months.