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You can get a year’s supply of free cannabis with SA’s first clinical trial for chronic pain

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  • A study in South Africa seeks to examine the efficacy of cannabis as an alternative to opioids for the treatment of chronic pain.
  • Touted as the first clinical trial of its kind in South Africa, it aims to enroll 300 participants.
  • These participants will receive one year of cannabis medication free of charge.
  • But you must prove that you have chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts for more than six months.
  • For more stories, visit www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa’s first cannabis clinical trial examining the plant’s efficacy as an alternative to opioids for the treatment of chronic pain is seeking to enroll 300 participants, with results expected by the end of 2023.

The South African Cannabis Research Institute (CRI) is sponsoring a one-year study that it hopes will provide credible, reliable and verifiable data on medical cannabis. The clinical trial comes amid South Africa’s changing perception of the plant, which has grown since the 2018 Constitutional Court ruling decriminalizing the private and personal use of cannabis.

Since then, the private sector has jumped on South Africa’s “green rush,” while the government’s own Cannabis Master Plan seeks to industrialize the plant and unlock more than 25,000 direct jobs. But legislative progress, in the form of the Private Cannabis Bill currently before Parliament, has been slow, leaving more unanswered questions about the plant’s recreational and medicinal uses.

The use of cannabis as a medicine has been legalized in most states in the Americas, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and much of Europe and South America. While use of the plant is legal in South Africa, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) does not yet have any official cannabis-containing medicine approved for pain relief.

Opioids, such as morphine, fentanyl, and tramadol, remain the most common treatment for pain. They are also highly addictive and, due to their pharmacological effects, can cause shortness of breath in an overdose, which can lead to death.

Of the estimated 500,000 deaths worldwide attributable to drug use, more than 70% are related to opioids, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). South Africa has seen a sharp increase in opioid treatment admission trends over the past decade, according to a study authored by members of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).

“Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists for more than six months and can be classified as visceral, somatic, and neurogenic. Given the broad spectrum, a wide variety of treatments exist, from over-the-counter medications to opioids such as morphine, oxycodone, or codeine, which instruct the body’s natural opioid receptors to prevent the nerves responsible for pain from sending signals,” explained Dr. Shiksha Gallow, principal investigator of the research study.

“In addition, opioids are associated with a myriad of side effects, including sedation, respiratory depression, and even death. With the global rise in opioid addiction, it brings with it far-reaching repercussions, from health problems to broader societal issues such as crime, research will focus on establishing a safer alternative to treating pain.”

There has been an increase in trials focused on replacing opioids with cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noting that “some studies have found that marijuana may be useful for treating neuropathic pain, a specific type of chronic pain caused by damaged nerves.” The CDC adds that “more research is needed to know if marijuana works better than other options for pain control.”

The first South African trial, in collaboration with Releaf Cannabis E-Clinics, a member of the ImpiloVest group, gives participants access to their medical cannabis throughout the study.

The year-long study, which is still accepting participants, will ensure that they “remain on the medication until opioid cessation is possible.” The drugs will be provided free of charge to patients, who will need to fill out questionnaires each month before filling their next prescription.

Three consultations will be provided to patients during the year, and any urgent consultation will be available if necessary.

All patients participating in the study must demonstrate that they have chronic pain. These patients usually have diseases or conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromuscular, osteoarthritis or even cancer-related conditions.

The South African department of health and SAMRC approved the clinical trial, according to Relief Pharmaceuticals, and SAHPRA “had been notified of the study sponsor and protocol.”

Professor Charles Parry, director of SAMRC’s alcohol, tobacco and other drug research unit, told Business Insider SA that the health department was solely responsible for approving clinical trials.

Parry provided a trial approval letter, addressed to Gallow, from the South African National Clinical Trials Registry (SANCTR). The SANCTR is administratively supported by the SAMRC on behalf of the health department.

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