By Emily Ledger
New data collected through the UK’s largest medical cannabis patient registry has revealed that cannabis-based medicines could prove to be a useful treatment option for patients with generalised anxiety disorder.
Researchers have identified clinically significant improvements in anxiety-specific outcomes in medium-term treatment periods. Data was collected through the UK Medical Cannabis Registry on the first group of patients to be prescribed medical cannabis as an anxiety treatment.
A total of 67 patients with generalised anxiety disorder were included in the final analysis detailing medium-term quality of life and safety outcomes. The review used patient-reported outcome measures to determine changes in quality of life among the patient sample following the initiation of medical cannabis treatment.
The data was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal ‘Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology’.
The Patient Sample
The mean age of patients in the sample was 38, with patients more likely to be male (67%) than female (33%). Furthermore, only a minority of patients (21%) had never used cannabis before. All patients included in the sample were diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and had received a prescription for medical cannabis through Sapphire Medical Clinics.
Quality of Life Outcomes
The researchers identified significant improvements in patient-reported outcomes relating to quality of life. Measures included General Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7), EQ-5D-5L (a measure of health-related quality of life), and Sleep Quality Scale (SQS) at one, three and six months.
Patient-reported outcome measures showed statistically significant improvements in health-related quality of life in patients at one, three, and six months following treatment initiation. Clinically significant improvements in self-reported anxiety, according to validated questionnaires, were also observed.
At baseline (prior to the initiation of medical cannabis treatment) the average anxiety score was ‘moderate to severe’. This reduced to ‘mild’ at one, three, and six months following treatment. Patients also experienced improvements in self-reported quality.
These findings build upon the data collected through randomised controlled trials in social anxiety disorder as well as pre-clinical studies. Moreover, this corroborates the previous findings from the UK Medical Cannabis Registry in patients with all conditions who also experienced an improvement of their generalised anxiety.
There is evidence that there has been an increase in anxiety – particularly among young people – during the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are effective pharmaceutical and psychological therapies for generalised anxiety disorder, there remains variability in response and tolerance of side effects. Therefore, research into medical cannabis as a potential anxiety treatment continues to gain interest.
Dr Simon Erridge, Head of Research and Access at Sapphire Medical Clinics, commented: “Considering the rising incidence of anxiety among the general population it is important that we continue to explore novel treatments for anxiety.
“The UK Medical Cannabis Registry aims to provide Real-World Evidence of the outcomes and safety of patients prescribed medical cannabis.
“This will be increasingly important as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has introduced guidance to incorporate its use alongside randomised controlled trials in helping accelerate licensing decisions for medications.”