Medical cannabis for the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome: a retrospective, open-label case series
Background: The use of cannabis for treating fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) has not been comprehensively investigated. Thus, we have assessed the efficacy and adverse events (AEs) of short- and long-term medical cannabis (MC) treatment for FMS.
Methods: Data were obtained from medical reports archived in the pain clinic of Ponderano (Italy; retrospective study). FMS patients, who were resistant to conventional therapy, received licensed MC with various Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) content, as powdered whole flowers (decoction or vaporization) or oil extracts. Demographic and clinical parameters, including Numerical Rating Scale (NRS), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Widespread Pain Index (WPI), Severity Score (SyS), and side effects, were obtained after 1, 3, and 12 months. Data were analyzed with Wilcoxon signed-rank tests for paired data.
Results: Thirty-eight patients were included. Thirty, 18, and 12 patients continued therapy for 1, 3, and 12 months, respectively. Significant improvements (p < 0.01) were observed in NRS, ODI, WPI, and SyS at 1 month; in NRS, ODI, and WPI at 3 months; and in NRS, ODI, and SyS at 12 months. Therapy was interrupted by 17 patients (48.6%) owing to nonserious AEs according to the FDA. The most common side effects were mental confusion (37%), dizziness (14%), nausea/vomiting (14%), and restlessness/irritation (14%). The median daily dose of milled flowers administered as THC-dominant MC and hybrid MC (with similar THC/CBD ratio) was 200 mg/day and 400 mg/day, respectively. After 3 months of titration, the median content of THC administered with THC-dominant MC cultivars was 46.2 mg, and of THC + CBD administered as a hybrid MC cultivar, was 23.6 mg + 38 mg. At 3 months, median THC content administered in the oil extract of the THC-dominant MC cultivars was 9.7 mg, while that of THC + CBD administered in the oil extract of the hybrid MC cultivars was 1.8 mg + 2 mg.
Conclusions: MC may represent an alternative treatment for patients with FMS who are unresponsive to conventional therapy. However, its application may be limited by the incidence of nonserious AEs.
Keywords: Case series; Fibromyalgia treatment; Herbal cannabis; Medical cannabis; Musculoskeletal pain; Open-label study.