Parkinson’s Foundation Releases Medical Cannabis Consensus

Next to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease, affecting millions of people worldwide.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, physicians diagnose 60,000 new cases of PD in the United States each year, making the disease the 14th-leading cause of death in the country.

Progressively-worsening symptoms of PD include loss of cognitive function, depression, irritability, and loss of motor control.

While there is no cure for PD, there are treatment drugs such as Sinemet that are supposed to ease symptoms, though most, if not all, are not without side effects.

The wave of medicinal cannabis legalization that has swept over the U.S. in recent times has helped spawn the notion that cannabis could hold potential as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease as well.

The Parkinson’s Foundation on Thursday announced the release of a medical consensus, which included key findings and guidance regarding medicinal cannabis use by people with Parkinson’s disease.

Information within the consensus is based on expert input from more than 40 neurologists, scientists, pharmacists, nurses, and other professionals who attended the Parkinson Foundation’s first-ever medical cannabis convening in March of 2019.

According to the Foundation, the experts urge caution when using cannabis to treat the symptoms of PD.

“The Parkinson’s Foundation continues to lead the field in generating more information about medical cannabis use for people with PD,” says Parkinson’s Foundation CSO James Beck PhD. “Ultimately, more research on medical cannabis is still needed to determine whether its use can have positive or adverse effects for Parkinson’s disease symptoms and the Foundation will continue to look for these answers while providing the PD community with the tools they need to live better today.”

According to the Foundation, the primary goal of the consensus is to provide guidance for physicians and their PD patients to safely treat symptoms with cannabis.

The secondary goal is to discover knowledge gaps that need to be addressed through comprehensive research.

“There is little evidence so far that cannabinoids are helpful for levodopa-induced dyskinesias,” states the consensus. “However, there is some evidence that they may help to reduce tremor.”

The consensus states that determining whether cannabis might treat distressing non-motor symptoms of PD, including sleep disturbances, pain, anxiety, and stomach problems, would be helpful.

The Parkinson’s Foundation’s consensus statement provides guidelines for treating PD symptoms with medicinal cannabis, including discussing the use of cannabinoid products with healthcare providers, dosage amounts, and potential side effects.

The Parkinson’s Foundation suggests keeping healthcare providers informed of which products are being used, working with a single dispensary, and starting with small doses at first.

While the consensus also provides information on obtaining a medical cannabis license and visiting dispensaries to acquire medicine, the document states that, in the absence of any clear data supporting the use of cannabinoid products in PD, the Parkinson’s Foundation does not endorse the use of cannabinoid products to treat PD symptoms.