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First-ever safety study of medical cannabis use in Canada launched

MONTREAL, 8 December 2004 -- A first-of-its-kind study of safety issues surrounding the medical use of cannabis has just been launched. Known as the COMPASS study (Cannabis for the management of pain: assessment of safety study), the research initiative will follow 1400 chronic pain patients, 350 of whom use cannabis as part of their pain management strategy, for a one-year period. Seven participating pain clinics across Canada are now enrolling patients for this study.

"Patients in COMPASS will typically have pain resulting from spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, arthritis or other kinds of hard-to-treat neuropathic or muscle pain," explains Dr. Mark Ware, principal investigator and pain physician at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Pain Centre. "We are not recruiting cancer patients for this study."

"COMPASS participants will be given access to research-grade herbal cannabis and followed for one year," adds Dr. Jean-Paul Collet, also a principal investigator and Professor of Epidemiology at McGill University.

"We'll be looking at a range of safety issues, including adverse events, kidney, liver, heart and lung function and hormone levels," he says. "Patients will also do tests at the start and end of the study, to help determine whether medical use of cannabis affects cognitive function."

Since 1999, Canadian patients have been able to use cannabis for medical reasons, under specific circumstances, with a physician's recommendation and Health Canada authorization. However, until now, the safety of cannabis used for medical purposes has not been scientifically studied.

"Other studies are looking at whether cannabis relieves pain and other symptoms," says Dr. Ware. "These studies are important, but we also need to know how safe cannabis used for medical purposes actually is. The experience of recreational users gives us some information, but we must understand safety issues in patients who are
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Contact: Ian Popple
ian.popple@muhc.mcgill.ca
514 843 1560
McGill University
8-Dec-2004


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