Researchers at the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics and Brain and Mind Centre will investigate whether cannabidiol is an effective alternative for treating chronic pain caused by spinal injury.
The research team has been awarded $1.7 million to support the project, made up of $1.45 million from NSW Health and $350,000 from the University.
The study’s lead investigator, Professor Luke Henderson – an expert in human brain imaging and pain, says half of spinal cord injury patients will develop chronic pain and current treatment options have been proven ineffective. Not only that, these treatments can introduce side effects making the condition worse.
There has been significant anecdotal and other evidence indicating cannabidiol could be useful in treating chronic pain as it reduces inflammation, but this needs to better backed and in this case applied to spine injury related pain specifically.
“While there are some studies showing that CBD can reduce pain in other chronic conditions, no one fully understands how it works to reduce pain. Our study can help tease this out,” said Professor Henderson
Part of the study will involve compare brain images of those who develop chronic pain after spinal cord injury to those who do not, which will help establish changes occurring in the brain that are responsible for the pain. The second part of the project will involve a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled study to look into cannabidiol’s ability to reduce the pain.
Other members of the research team include the Lambert Initiative’s Professor Iain McGregor and Dr Elizabeth Cairns; and Dr Sachin Shetty, who works with spinal injury patients in her role as a clinician at Prince of Wales hospital.
The Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics takes its name from Australian philanthropists Barry and Joy Lambert, who donated AUD $33.7 million to the University of Sydney in 2015 for the establishing of the center. The Lamberts have first-hand experience of the benefits of medicinal cannabis, which is being used successfully to treat their granddaughter. Mr. Lambert subsequently went on to chair hemp company Ecofibre, with one of its subsidiaries focusing on a pharmacy-grade CBD oil product line.