Sickle Cell Disease Patients Who Use Medical Cannabis Experience Less Hospitalizations, Says Study

NORML has reported on an interesting new study that is of particular interest to those with sickle cell disease and/or for those who know someone who does. The study found that medical cannabis use is associated with less frequent hospitalizations among patients living with sickle cell disease (SCD). The study was published in the journal Blood Advances. It’s titled Medical marijuana certification for patients with sickle cell disease: A report of a single center experience.

Researchers from Yale University in Connecticut and the Sackler School of Medicine in Israel examined the relationship between cannabis use and hospitalization rates in patients with SCD over a six-month period. They found that “The patients who obtained medical marijuana showed a reduction in median six-month hospital admissions compared with the patients who … did not obtain medical marijuana.”

According to NORML, their findings are consistent with a pair of prior studies – one from 2018 and one from earlier this year – similarly reporting reduced rates of hospitalization among SCD patients who initiate cannabis therapy.

“Survey data indicates that the use of medicinal cannabis for symptom management is relatively common among SCD patients. Clinical trial data published in July reported that the short-term use of vaporized cannabis in SCD patients is associated with improved mood and may also mitigate symptoms of SCD-related pain.” That study’s authors concluded: “People with SCD are often using multiple medications. Since no significant adverse effects were observed, this proof of principle study has the potential to encourage and guide future larger and longer investigations into the potential use of cannabis-based interventions.”

The full abstract of the new study states:

More than one-third of adults with sickle cell disease (SCD) report using cannabis-based products. Many states list SCD or pain as qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, but there are few data to guide practitioners whether or whom should be certified. We postulated that certifying SCD patients may lead to a reduction in opioid use and/or health care utilization. Furthermore, we sought to identify clinical characteristics of patients who would request this intervention. Retrospective data obtained over the study period included rates of health care and opioid utilization for 6 months before certification and after certification. Patients who were certified but failed to obtain medical marijuana were compared with those who obtained it. Patients who were certified were invited to participate in a survey regarding their reasons for and thoughts on certification. Patients who were certified for medical marijuana were compared with 25 random patients who did not request certification. Fifty adults with SCD were certified for medical marijuana and 29 obtained it. Patients who obtained medical marijuana experienced a decrease in admission rates compared with those who did not and increased use of edible cannabis products. Neither group had changes in opioid use. Patients who were certified for medical marijuana had higher rates of baseline opioid use and illicit cannabis use compared with those who did not request certification. Most patients with SCD who requested medical marijuana were already using cannabis illicitly. Obtaining medical marijuana decreased inpatient hospitalizations.

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