Chronic pain in patients with advanced cancer poses a serious clinical challenge. The Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)/cannabidiol (CBD) oromucosal spray (U.S. Adopted Name, nabiximols; Sativex(®)) is a novel cannabinoid formulation currently undergoing investigation as an adjuvant therapy for this treatment group.
This follow-up study investigated the long-term safety and tolerability of THC/CBD spray and THC spray in relieving pain in patients with advanced cancer.
In total, 43 patients with cancer-related pain experiencing inadequate analgesia despite chronic opioid dosing, who had participated in a previous three-arm (THC/CBD spray, THC spray, or placebo), two-week parent randomized controlled trial, entered this open-label, multicenter, follow-up study. Patients self-titrated THC/CBD spray (n=39) or THC spray (n=4) to symptom relief or maximum dose and were regularly reviewed for safety, tolerability, and evidence of clinical benefit.
The efficacy end point of change from baseline in mean Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form scores for “pain severity” and “worst pain” domains showed a decrease (i.e., improvement) at each visit in the THC/CBD spray patients. Similarly, the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire-C30 scores showed a decrease (i.e., improvement) from baseline in the domains of insomnia, pain, and fatigue. No new safety concerns associated with the extended use of THC/CBD spray arose from this study.
This study showed that the long-term use of THC/CBD spray was generally well tolerated, with no evidence of a loss of effect for the relief of cancer-related pain with long-term use. Furthermore, patients who kept using the study medication did not seek to increase their dose of this or other pain-relieving medication over time, suggesting that the adjuvant use of cannabinoids in cancer-related pain could provide useful benefit.