After eighteen months of detailed planning and procedure, the University of Notre Dame Australia in Perth (UNDA) recently announced that a team of researchers, led by Dr. Amanda Timler, has embarked on the first-ever clinical trial to find out how cannabis can be used to treat the adverse behavioral effects of dementia.
The University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Health Research (IHR) has partnered with phytomedicine grower and producer MGC Pharma to source the purified cannabinoid extract to be used in the study, known as CogniCann - a 3:2 (THC:CBD) proprietary blend set in an oral spray (1 spray = 2.5mgs THC). Timler's trial references an observational study done by Broers et al earlier this year in Geneva which demonstrated a 40% reduction in behavioral concerns and a 50% reduction in rigidity after two months of use. "So the results are promising," said Dr. Timler.
The Geneva study originally followed 10 females with severe dementia.To ensure participant safety, at its onset, the IHR clinical trial will include five individuals with mild dementia aged 65 or older who live in an accredited residential aged care facility but will increase to a total of 50 participants over the course of 14 months, making it one of the largest studies in the field.
Behavioral and symptomatic changes in those with dementia often include agitation, aggression, loss of appetite, and disruptive sleep patterns – all conditions for which cannabis has shown promise in treating independently of the disease. Researchers will also be looking at how cannabis treatment improves overall quality of life – not just for patients, but for their loved ones and caregivers, as well.
In an email exchange, Dr. Timler discussed what first sparked her interest in cannabis medicine and some of her hopes going forward:
“For me, I have a great interest in the area of medicinal cannabis as there are so many therapeutic properties that seem to benefit a range of conditions, so I am interested in how this medication can help to treat dementia as it is a complex condition, with no cure. The number of family members that I have spoken to since the start of this project who just want someone to talk to is overwhelming as the medication being used do not always work or make symptoms worse.”
Stay tuned for trial updates and outcomes as they are made available.