Shoppers Drug Mart and University Health Network partner on 'first-of-its-kind' medical cannabis study

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In what they’re calling “a first-of-its-kind real world evidence study,” Toronto General Hospital’s Dr. Hance Clarke will lead new research designed to help medical cannabis consumers and doctors better understand how cannabinoids impact various conditions. 

Clarke, an anesthesiologist and the director of pain services at TGH, wants to back up existing anecdotal evidence with scientific data to help doctors guide patients toward effective products and doses.

“We need the evidence to help us in prescribing the appropriate validated product, at the right dose, for the right patient,” he said in a release announcing the trial.

The study will be conducted in partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart, with patients selecting their cannabis products through the store’s online medical portal. These products —  including flower, oils, edibles, and topicals — are tracked from seed to sale, providing data about the amount of THC and CBD being consumed and the product’s effectiveness for individual patients, from batch to batch. 

“The challenge with the medical use of cannabis is that physicians and patients are unsure of the quality of products being consumed,” says Clarke. “For the first time we will have a national repository of data that can provide answers about the effectiveness of these products, to test their claims.” 

The goal of the study is to bring medical cannabis more in line with other pharmaceutical products, where standardization is critical for understanding patient outcomes. 

More than a million Canadians rely on medical cannabis but some doctors remain skeptical, pointing to a lack of clinical evidence demonstrating the efficacy of cannabis for certain conditions. This trial could provide the data needed to change change their minds, Clarke says. 

“Ensuring quality standards will allow physicians and their patients to be confident about using medical cannabis to treat a wide range of pain-related ailments.”

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