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abstracts & posters

Medical Marijuana for Sickle Cell Disease: Results of Two Years of Certification in an Adult Sickle Cell Center

key information

source: American Society of Hematology

year: 2018

authors: Susanna A Curtis, Dana Lew, Jonathan Spodick, John D. Roberts

summary/abstract:

Background: The hallmark of sickle cell disease (SCD) is pain, which can be both acute and chronic. Pain in patients with SCD leads to hospital admissions and diminishes quality of life. Pain in patients with SCD is primarily treated with opioid medications, which are often insufficient. In 2017 the Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine reported that there is “conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults”, but the report made no mention of chronic pain in patients with SCD.

Currently, 30 states and Washington D.C. have medical marijuana (MM) laws, and 5 states list SCD as a qualifying condition. SCD was added to the list of qualifying conditions in Connecticut in February 2016. Since then we have offered certification to patients in our program who make regular clinic visits and for whom we think MM will be safe. However, not all patients who are certified go on to complete the state regulatory paperwork and obtain MM. We hypothesized that those who had obtained MM would show an improvement in clinical outcomes compared to those patients who had been certified but not obtained MM.

Conclusion: Though there was no difference in admission rates between the two groups we examined prior to MM certification, and the only clinical difference was that those who obtained MM were more likely to be in the more severe genotype, those who obtained MM showed a decrease in admissions in the next 6 months compared to those who did not. We suggest that MM allowed patients to improve their pain relief and thereby reduce admission rates. This is consistent with data showing cannabinoid agonists improve pain in murine models of SCD. Larger, randomized and controlled studies of MM for pain in SCD should be conducted.

organization: Yale University, USA; Sackler School of Medicine, Israel

DOI: 10.1182/blood-2018-99-118290

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