Curtin University has launched a study into the use of medicinal cannabis to treat chronic illness and seek to improve the quality of life for people living in pain.
The QUEST global research is a worldwide study and was launched by Curtin University, Little Green Pharma and the Health Insurance Fund of Australia, following the success of the initial QUEST initiative – which was recently awarded ‘R&D project of the year’ at the ‘2023 Cannabiz Awards’.
QUEST Global aims to provide a detailed insight into the use of medical cannabis and how it can be used to treat the 3.37 million Australians living with chronic pain, as well as reducing the amount of medication people have to consume.
Lead research associate Richard Norman says there are a lot of people who struggle with things like insomnia and chronic pain, and a lot of the opioid pain relief medications on offer are ineffective.
“There’s a lot of evidence out there suggesting medicinal cannabis might be a good solution for at least some or many of these people, with these conditions, and the QUEST global initiative is part of a larger push to get more evidence in that area,” he says.
The study looks to address whether the use of medical cannabis reduces the economic impact of chronic disease through being a reliable substitute for patients pain medication and their need for health services.
The project has been endorsed by a number of medical institutes in Australia including MS Research Australia, Chronic Pain Australia, and Arthritis Australia.
Arthritis Australia chief executive Jonathan Smithers says although there have been signs to show cannabis does benefit some people with arthritis, it is important to be aware about the safety of the treatment and continued research is to be conducted.
“The best way to test the effectiveness of any medical treatment, including cannabis is through rigorous scientific trials over a period of time,” he says.
Australians living with one of 200 chronic conditions may be eligible to take part in the study, which Curtin researchers expect to be one of the biggest of its kind in regard to the impact of cannabis for medicinal purpose.
Professor Norman says the study aims to capture a wide range of people who might benefit from medicinal cannabis, as opposed to traditional trials which often focus on small groups.
“Basically we’re interested in people with a range of symptoms and health conditions for which there is some evidence the treatment would be beneficial,” he says.
Eligible people can discuss the initiative with their general practioner and, if recommended, they start the treatment and their health will be tracked and surveyed over time to see the results.
Sophia Moermond is member of the Legalise Cannabis Party of WA, and says although the use of medicinal cannabis has been legalised in WA, people who are on the medication still need to be cautious and wary of the law.
“In Australia the use of cannabis for medical purposes has become legalised. However the full benefits of medical cannabis in Western Australia are still constrained by regulatory restrictions,” she says.
“For example people with a cannabis prescription have no exemption for drug driving, LCWA is looking to change these and other laws surrounding medicinal cannabis “
Samuel Lawrence is one of the 3.37 million Australians living with chronic pain, and has been prescribed medicinal cannabis for the past year to help with his back pain and insomnia, which he says has been a major help for him.
“It helped for exactly what I got it for and over time I’ve seen all the symptoms I’ve had reduced,” he says.
Early findings in the QUEST initiative study has seen favourable results which indicate significant improvements in the quality of life of Australian’s living with chronic illness and pain.
The new QUEST global project will be conducted over five years and, unlike the previous study, doesn’t have a limit on candidates, with participants being eligible to a rebate on their treatment medication.