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Prescribed Medical Cannabis Use Among Older Individuals: Patient Characteristics and Improvements in Well-Being: Findings from T21

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Abstract

Background

Previous research has suggested that the use of cannabis-based medicinal products is increasing most rapidly among older aged individuals (65+ years). Despite this, little is known about the characteristics of older people using cannabis-based medicinal products and their effectiveness.

Objectives

We aimed to document the characteristics, outcomes and prescribing patterns of individuals aged 65+ years receiving prescribed cannabis compared to younger individuals receiving prescribed cannabis.

Methods

Data from T21, an observational study of patients seeking treatment with medicinal cannabinoids, including self-report ratings of quality of life (assessed via the EQ-5D-5L), general health (assessed via the visual analogue scale of the EQ-5D-5L), mood (assessed via the Patient Health Questionnaire-9) and sleep (assessed using four items derived from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) were available at treatment entry [n = 4228; 198 (4.7%) 65+ years] and at a 3-month follow-up [n = 2455; 98 (4.2%) = 65+ years].

Results

Relative to younger individuals, those aged over 64 years were more likely to be female (52.5% vs 47.0%; p < 0.001), more likely to report pain as their primary condition (76.3% vs 45.6%; p < 0.001) and less likely to report current daily use (20.2% vs 60.3%, p < 0.001). They received fewer cannabis-based medicinal products (mean = 1.4 vs 2.1; F(1,2199) = 32.3, p < 0.001) and were more likely to receive a prescription for a cannabidiol dominant oil (17.5% vs 5.7%; p < 0.001) and less likely to receive a prescription for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol dominant flower (32.5% vs 75.2%; p < 0.001). There were significant improvements across all measures of well-being (p < 0.001), but the extent of improvements in sleep were more marked in younger individuals (p < 0.001).

Conclusions

There are important differences between individuals aged 65+ years and younger individuals receiving cannabis-based medicinal products. Older aged individuals experience considerable improvement in health and well-being when prescribed cannabis-based medicinal products.

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Acknowledgements

We express our gratitude to the patients involved in Project T21 who contributed their data to the study. We thank our partners whose generosity is enabling Project T21 patients to receive their CBMPs at a reduced rate: Somai Pharmaceuticals, Ethypharm, 4CLabs and Blackpoint Biotech. We are grateful to the partners who previously supported T21: Alta Flora, Cellen Biotech Ltd, JMCC Group, Khiron Life Sciences Corp., Lyphe Group and BOD Australia. These partners were not involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, writing of this article or the decision to submit it for publication.

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Correspondence to Michael T. Lynskey.

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Funding

The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Conflict of interest

Drug Science receives an unrestricted educational grant from a consortium of medical cannabis companies to further its mission, which is the pursuit of an unbiased and scientific assessment of drugs regardless of their regulatory class. All Drug Science committee members including the Chair, are unpaid by Drug Science for their effort and commitment to this organisation. Anne K. Schlag is a scientific advisor to Somai Pharmaceuticals and Evolve. None of the authors (Michael T. Lynskey, Hannah Thurgur, Alkyoni Athanasiou-Fragkouli, Anne K. Schlag, David J. Nutt) would benefit from the wider prescription of medical cannabis in any form.

Ethics approval

According to the National Health Service Health Research Authority, T21 is classified as research; however, based on the Medical Research Council decision tools, research ethics committee review and approval are not required.

Consent to participate

All individuals provide signed informed consent for their data to be used for research purposes.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Availability of data and material

The data that support the findings of this study are available on reasonable request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available as they contain information that could compromise the privacy of research participants.

Code availability

Not applicable.

Author contributions

The authors confirm contribution to the paper as follows: study conception and design: ML, AKS, DJN; data collection: ML, AA, AKS, DJN; analysis and interpretation of results: ML, AA; manuscript preparation and editing: ML, HT. All authors reviewed the results and approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Lynskey, M.T., Thurgur, H., Athanasiou-Fragkouli, A. et al. Prescribed Medical Cannabis Use Among Older Individuals: Patient Characteristics and Improvements in Well-Being: Findings from T21. Drugs Aging 41, 521–530 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40266-024-01123-y

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