A Mapping Literature Review of Medical Cannabis Clinical Outcomes and Quality of Evidence in Approved Conditions in the USA from 2016 to 2019
In 2017, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report comprehensively evaluated the body of evidence regarding cannabis health effects through the year 2016. The objectives of this study are to identify and map the most recently (2016-2019) published literature across approved conditions for medical cannabis and to evaluate the quality of identified recent systematic reviews, published following the NASEM report. Following the literature search from 5 databases and consultation with experts, 11 conditions were identified for evidence compilation and evaluation: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, cancer, chronic noncancer pain, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus/AIDS, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, and posttraumatic stress disorder. A total of 198 studies were included after screening for condition-specific relevance and after imposing the following exclusion criteria: preclinical focus, non-English language, abstracts only, editorials/commentary, case studies/series, and non-U.S. study setting. Data extracted from studies included: study design type, outcome definition, intervention definition, sample size, study setting, and reported effect size. Few completed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were identified. Studies classified as systematic reviews were graded using the Assessing the Methodological Quality of Systematic Reviews-2 tool to evaluate the quality of evidence. Few high-quality systematic reviews were available for most conditions, with the exceptions of MS (9 of 9 graded moderate/high quality; evidence for 2/9 indicating cannabis improved outcomes; evidence for 7/9 indicating cannabis inconclusive), epilepsy (3 of 4 graded moderate/high quality; 3 indicating cannabis improved outcomes; 1 indicating cannabis inconclusive), and chronic noncancer pain (12 of 13 graded moderate/high quality; evidence for 7/13 indicating cannabis improved outcomes; evidence from 6/7 indicating cannabis inconclusive). Among RCTs, we identified few studies of substantial rigor and quality to contribute to the evidence base. However, there are some conditions for which significant evidence suggests that select dosage forms and routes of administration likely have favorable risk-benefit ratios (i.e., epilepsy and chronic noncancer pain). The body of evidence for medical cannabis requires more rigorous evaluation before consideration as a treatment option for many conditions, and evidence necessary to inform policy and treatment guidelines is currently insufficient for many conditions.
Keywords: Cannabidiol; Cannabinoids; Cannabis; Commonly recommended conditions for marijuana treatment; Marijuana clinical outcomes; Marijuana efficacy; Medical marijuana.