The aim of this review was to assess the efficacy of cannabis preparations for relieving pain in patients with malignant diseases, through a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), which were predominantly double-blind trials that compared cannabis preparation to a placebo.
An electronic search of all literature published until June 2017 was made in MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase, The Cochrane Controlled Trials Register and specific web pages devoted to cannabis.
Fifteen of the 18 trials demonstrated a significant analgesic effect of cannabinoids as compared to placebo. The most commonly reported adverse effects were generally well tolerated, mild to moderate. The main side effects were drowsiness, nausea, vomiting and dry mouth. There is evidence that cannabinoids are safe and modestly effective in neuropathic pain and also for relieving pain in patients with malignant diseases. The proportion of “responders” (patients who at the end of 2 weeks of treatment reported ≥30% reduction in pain intensity on a scale of 0-10, which is considered to be clinically important) was 43% in comparison with placebo (21%).
The target dose for relieving pain in patients with malignant diseases is most likely about 10 actuations per day, which is about 27 mg tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 25 mg cannabidiol (CBD), and the highest approved recommended dose is 12 actuations per day (32 mg THC/30 mg CBD). Further large studies of cannabinoids in homogeneous populations are required.