Token trial?

• Professor Jim Codde (left) and Dr Amanda Timler (right). Photos supplied by Notre Dame University

THE University of Notre Dame is taking part in a study that looks at the benefits of medicinal cannabis for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Fifty West Australians, aged 65 or over, will take part in a six-week trial, with half being treated with a cannabis oral spray and the rest given a placebo.

The university has partnered up with Israel-based pharmaceutical company, MGC pharmaceuticals, to undertake the trial.

Study coordinator Dr Amanda Timler said that participants were likely to feel the usual effects of cannabis.

“They might get a sense of giddiness or a euphoric feeling,” she said.

Professor Jim Codde, director of the Institute for Health Research, said the aim of the study was to improve patients’ quality of life.

“Planning for the study has been incredibly extensive and involved other key stakeholders including medical experts, aged care practitioners and our ethics committee to ensure the well-being of participants throughout the study.”

While heavy cannabis use has been linked to long-term memory loss, Dr Timler says their safely-sourced cannabis will not worsen existing memory loss in trial participants.

“The cannabis is grown in Malta and manufactured in Slovenia. It’s then then tested in a laboratory. Under these conditions we don’t believe its going to cause any effects in memory.”

In a survey of 640 doctors last year, six out of 10 said they’d been asked about medicinal cannabis as a treatment option by their patients.

Although its use has been legalised by the federal government, doctors cannot yet prescribe medicinal marijuana.

The Australian Medical Association is calling for more clinical trials to prove the drugs efficacy.

“Cannabis is not a new drug,” said AMA president Michael Gannon in 2017, when medicinal cannabis was first legalised.

“It’s been around since pre-history and if it was the panacea for a whole range of medical conditions, then we would’ve been using it for a long period of time.

“The truth is that it potentially does have limited application in a number of areas.”

Dr Timler says that one day we’ll see lots of Aussie patients puffing a joint.

“100 per cent there’s a future,” she says. “The amount of support from the community and aged care facilities not just here, but over East as well, is overwhelming.”

by CHARLIE BRAY

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