Kelly Gavigan, MPH Manager, Research and Data Science CreakyJoints 

People With Arthritis Are Trying and Using Medical Marijuana Interview with:

Kelly Gavigan, MPH Manager, Research and Data Science CreakyJoints 

Kelly Gavigan

Kelly Gavigan, MPH
Manager, Research and Data Science
CreakyJoints What is the background for this study?

Response: Over the past fifteen years, there have been significant improvements in quality of life among people living with rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease with the introduction of biologics and targeted therapies. However, despite a variety of treatments to try, patients often seek non-pharmacological alternative and complementary treatments, such as marijuana for medical use (MMU), to help manage their condition and symptoms. MMU is becoming increasingly available in the United States as different states legalize it under specific circumstances.

Legal or not, according to a survey conducted by CreakyJoints using the ArthritisPower Research Registry (n=1,059 participants), people with arthritis are trying marijuana for medical use. What are the main findings?

Response: The survey found that more current or past marijuana for medical use users live in a state where marijuana is medically legal (55%) than not (46%). Only 40 percent of MMU users have used a medical marijuana card to legally purchase it. Among the respondents who had never used marijuana for medical use (63%), illegality (40%), potential impairment (24%), and not knowing where (21%) or how (20%) to obtain MMU (legally or not) were cited as top reasons for not using it.

Of respondents who live in states where marijuana is medically legal, most (68%) had informed their health care provider (HCP) about their marijuana for medical use use, whereas only slightly more than half (54%, p=0.02) informed their HCP in non-legal states.

Utilizing the ArthritisPower® research registry, which now includes more than 22,000 consented participants, the 77-item questionnaire surveyed 1,059 participants in the United States who were over the age of 19 and reported physician-diagnosed rheumatic or musculoskeletal disease. The survey asked participants about their current health status (NIH PROMIS Global Health), their use and perceptions of marijuana for medical use and cannabidiol (CBD) products, and their related information needs. CreakyJoints independently funded this study. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This study suggests that people with arthritis are trying and regularly using marijuana for what they perceive to be a medical purpose, regardless of state legality.

It’s particularly worrisome that participants aren’t talking to their health care providers about their use of marijuana for medical use so that it can be part of their medical record. That may be, in part, because of its legal status and trying to protect themselves, their doctors and their access to these products.

It’s important to note that even though marijuana (and related CBD) usage is growing among people with arthritis and other chronic diseases, research about its safety and effectiveness lags far behind. Doctors do not have any research to reference regarding the effective dose, potential interactions with prescribed medications, or its safety, overall. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: CreakyJoints believes that it is time for the federal government to reschedule marijuana so that it can be studied under the same regulations that apply to prescribed medications. We need high quality randomized controlled clinical trials to better understand whether and how marijuana for medical use might be used in conjunction with approved medications.

In our study, a majority (62%) of participants expressed interest in participating in a trial on MMU treatment of rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease. Notably, participants top concern about a trial was ensuring participation would be legal (36%). Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Even though participants who live in a state where MMU is legal are significantly more likely to use MMU and CBD than participants who live in states where MMU is not legal, we found that many people  —  24 percent of participants who live in states where MMU is not legal  — have used or currently use MMU. Hence, the marijuana they’re accessing is not regulated in the same way that marijuana for medical use is regulated in states where it is legal. This presents a whole slew of challenges for the patient and their providers, as they try to navigate dosage, THC percentage, and other factors that may or may not impact the potential benefits of MMU. This is why clinical studies need to be conducted, so that research can help inform policy and regulation.

Disclosures: Kelly Gavigan is an employee of Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF). GHLF has received research funding support from AbbVie, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Janssen, Pfizer, Sanofi Genzyme, and UCB. Development of ArthritisPower was partially supported through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) award (PPRN-1306-04811). This ArthritisPower research was supported by CreakyJoints, the digital patient community of GHLF, funding. 


Legal Matters: Attitudes Regarding Marijuana for Medical Use Among Patients with Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Disease

Kelly Gavigan1, Shilpa Venkatachalam 1, Jeffrey Curtis 2, Carole Wiedmeyer 1, Tien Sydnor-Campbell 1, Christine Stake 1, Terri Robinson 1 and W. Benjamin Nowell 11Global Healthy Living Foundation, Upper Nyack, NY, 2University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL

Meeting: 2019 ACR/ARP Annual Meeting


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Last Updated on November 11, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD