Israeli researchers reveal first clinical proof that controlled doses of cannabis can reduce pain


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Israeli researchers have conducted and published a new clinical study claiming that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – a psychoactive cannabinoid contained in the cannabis plant – may be useful as a pain reliever. The team noted how THC’s effects were most efficient when inhaled in controlled doses by patients who endure chronic pain.

Carried out at the Pain Research Unit of the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa between March 2016 and July 2017, this double‐blind, placebo‐controlled study on controlled dose THC for pain relief involved 25 patients. The mean age of study subjects was 48.

To accurately understand just how much THC is necessary to reduce pain in chronic sufferers, the Israeli research team collaborated with Syqe Medical — a Tel Aviv-based pharma-tech company responsible for developing the world’s first ever regulatory-approved medical tool pre-installed with a controlled substance.

Patients who used the selective-dose, pharmaceutical-grade inhaler devices were monitored and their experiences outlined in the European Journal of Pain

What were the results of this Israeli study on cannabis for pain?

A group of authors pulled together to carry out the investigation, including Professor Elon Eisenberg from Syqe’s scientific advisory board and Dr. Shlomo Almog of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine. In addition to the aforementioned authors, this Israeli study on controlled dose THC for pain relief also received contributions from a Syqe consultant — the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Sheba Medical Center.

Together, the team reconfirmed cannabis’ suitability as a treatment for adults who are diagnosed with chronic pain, only this time, they “demonstrated that a metered‐dose cannabis inhaler delivered precise and low THC doses, produced a dose‐dependent and safe analgesic effect in patients with neuropathic pain/ complex‐regional pain syndrome (CRPS).”

Specifically, the results clarified that patients with chronic discomfort experienced “a significant reduction in pain intensity compared with baseline and remained stable for 150 min” after inhaling 0.5 mg 500 micrograms or 1mg (1 milligram) of THC. Their analysis was drawn up after monitoring blood THC levels, cognitive functions, pain relief and psychoactivity. Although some adverse side effects of THC were reported, they were “mostly mild and resolved spontaneously.” Moreover, there was no indication of persistent impairments in cognitive performance.

“All patients in the clinical trial suffered from chronic pain with a baseline pain intensity of six or above on a 10‐cm visual analog scale (VAS),” wrote Syqe’s clinical team via email. “Most patients were suffering from chronic focal or distal symmetric diabetic neuropathic pain [caused by damage or disease affecting the somatosensory nervous system], and six from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) [believed to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems].”

Who is Syqe Medical?

Established back in 2011, Syqe Medical saw its inception following founder Perry Davidson’s launch of two novel inhaler variations — a product catered towards everyday individuals/patients and one designed specifically for use in licensed medical institutions.

Syqe Medical’s novel inhaler was used to provide an accurate dosage of THC to the patients. Suitable for remote use, the inhaler “delivers significantly low and precise doses of THC, thus allowing the administration of inhaled cannabis‐based medicines according to high pharmaceutical standards,” said the group of researchers, adding that, “these low doses of THC can produce safe and effective analgesia in patients with chronic pain.” 

Patients who endure the following medical conditions are considered suitable candidates to receive controlled dose THC with the company’s inhaler:

  • Cancer 
  • Chronic pain
  • CRPS
  • Chronic muscle pain 
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Phantom pain
  • Spasticity
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

“We can conclude from the study results that low doses of cannabis may provide desirable effects while avoiding cognitive debilitations, significantly contributing to daily functioning, quality of life, and safety of the patient. The doses given in this study, being so low, mandate very high precision in the treatment modality. This precision is unique to the Syqe drug delivery technology, enabling cannabis dosing at pharmaceutical standards,” said Professor Eisenberg. He also assumes the role of dean of the Faculty of Medicine, which is housed inside the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Israeli Health Ministry-approved, Syqe Medical’s novel inhaler is promoted and marketed by Teva — an Israeli pharmaceutical multinational corporation with European CE approval in the pipeline. 

“This study is the first to show that human sensitivity to THC is significantly greater than previously assumed, indicating that if we can treat patients with much higher precision, lower quantities of [the] drug will be needed, resulting in fewer side effects and an overall more effective treatment,” said Davidson, Syqe’s CEO, in a company statement.

Syqe concluded that the trial was the “first scientific confirmation that microdosing – the process of using extremely low doses of active drug compounds to treat various conditions – actually works with cannabis.”