(Vienna, October 22, 2018) In the first study of its kind, cannabis oil has been shown to significantly improve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and the quality of life of sufferers but, contrary to previous medical thinking, has no effect on gut inflammation.
In a randomised, placebo-controlled study, researchers from Israel have shown that cannabis can produce clinical remission in up to 65% of individuals after 8 weeks of treatment, but that this improvement does not appear to result from a dampening down of the underlying inflammatory process.
Speaking at UEG Week 2018 in Vienna, lead researcher, Dr Timna Naftali explained, “Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of medical conditions, and studies have shown that many people with Crohn’s disease use cannabis regularly to relieve their symptoms.It has always been thought that this improvement was related to a reduction in inflammation in the gut and the aim of this study was to investigate this.”
The Israeli team recruited 46 people with moderately severe Crohn’s disease, and randomized them to receive 8 weeks of treatment with either cannabis oil containing 15% cannabidiol and 4% tetrahydrocannabinol or placebo. Symptom severity and quality of life were measured before, during, and after treatment using validated research instruments. Inflammation in the gut was assessed endoscopically and by measuring inflammatory markers in blood and stool samples.
After 8 weeks of treatment, the group receiving the cannabis oil had a significant reduction in their Crohn’s disease symptoms compared with the placebo group, and 65%met strict criteria for clinical remission (versus 35% of the placebo recipients). The cannabis group also had significant improvements in their quality of life compared with the placebo group.
“We have previously demonstrated that cannabis can produce measurable improvements in Crohn’s disease symptoms4 but, to our surprise, we saw no statistically significant improvements in endoscopic scores or in the inflammatory markers we measured in the cannabis oil group compared with the placebo group,” said Dr Naftali. “We know that cannabinoids can have profound anti-inflammatory effects but this study indicates that the improvement in symptoms may not be related to these anti-inflammatory properties.”
Looking ahead, the research group plans to explore further the potential anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. “There are very good grounds to believe that the endocannabinoid system is a potential therapeutic target in Crohn’s disease and other gastrointestinal diseases,” said Dr Naftali. “For now, however, we can only consider medicinal cannabis as an alternative or additional intervention that provides temporary symptom relief for some people with Crohn’s disease.’
Notes to Editors
For further information, or to arrange an interview with Dr Tinma Naftali, please contact Luke Paskins on +44 (0)1444 811099 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Dr Timna Naftali
Dr Timna Naftali is an MD Specialist in Gastroenterology at Meir Hospital and Kupat Holim Clinic, Tel Aviv University, Israel.
About UEG Week
UEG Week is the largest and most prestigious gastroenterology meeting in Europe and has developed into a global congress. It attracts over 14,000 participants each year, from more than 120 countries, and numbers are steadily rising. UEG Week provides a forum for basic and clinical scientists from across the globe to present their latest research in digestive and liver diseases, and also features a two-day postgraduate course that brings together top lecturers in their fields for a weekend of interactive learning.
UEG, or United European Gastroenterology, is a professional non-profit organisation combining all the leading European medical specialist and national societies focusing on digestive health. Together, its member societies represent over 30,000 specialists, working across medicine, surgery, paediatrics, gastrointestinal oncology and endoscopy. This makes UEG the most comprehensive organisation of its kind in the world, and a unique platform for collaboration and the exchange of knowledge.
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- Naftali T, Bar-Lev Schlieder L, Konikoff F, et al. Cannabis induces clinical response but no endoscopic response in Crohn’s disease patients. Presented at UEG Week Vienna 2018, October 22, 2018.
- Lal S, Prasad N, Ryan M, et al. Cannabis use amongst patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011;23(10):891-6.
- Weiss A, Friedenberg F. Patterns of cannabis use in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A population based analysis. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;156:84-89.
- Naftali T, Bar-Lev Schleider L, Dotan I, et al. Cannabis induces a clinical response in patients with Crohn's disease: a prospective placebo-controlled study. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;11(10):1276-1280.e1.