How Real-World Data Informs Medical Cannabis Decisions

How Real-World Data Informs Medical Cannabis Decisions

If you have been involved in Medical Cannabis to any extent over the last several years, you know that medical opinions about efficacy differ widely. At the root of many of the differences is a lack of clinical research. No doubt clinical research is growing by the day. Still, it pales in comparison to most FDA-approved medications and therapies. Enter real-world data.

The Cannigma’s Elana Kirsh recently put together a fantastic post outlining the challenges of clinical research in Medical Cannabis and the importance of paying attention to novel data sets, including real-world data. What is real-world data? It is data gathered from actual users and their medical providers rather than through clinical studies.

Data From the Cannigma Audience

Kirsh began her post by acknowledging The Cannigma’s reliance on scientific information to create its posts. But then she went on to further explain that not all their scientific data comes from clinical research. That is because clinical data can take years to produce. Therefore, her employer also collects data directly from the website’s audience.

The company partners with MoreBetter, a well-known data and software company, to conduct community research among audience members. Since June 2023, they have launched five data collection efforts targeting specific products. The goal has always been to encourage audience members to use the products and then share their experiences.

Research Data Is Insufficient

Reading Kirsch’s post makes it abundantly clear that relying exclusively on clinical data is not conducive to fully understanding the benefits of Medical Cannabis in real-world settings. As this post already stated, clinical research can take years to produce. This is by design, and it is good. The FDA needs to be incredibly careful about approving new drugs and therapies. They require extensive research and clinical study data before they ever make a decision.

Unfortunately, this presents challenges to the Medical Cannabis community. First and foremost, clinical research is time-consuming and expensive. How many Medical Cannabis patients would not have access to the medications they need if they had to wait for clinical research?

Moreover, we still face challenges regarding encouraging research into Medical Cannabis. There are not nearly as many research entities willing to look at Medical Cannabis efficacy thanks to a variety of reasons we will not get into here.

An Alternative Source of Data

Anecdotal “real-world” data acts as an alternative source of data capable of informing decisions at the local level. Armed with it, a Utah Pharmacy Medical Provider (PMP) can offer patients advice on products and delivery methods. Likewise, real-world data informs Qualified Medical Providers (QMPs) as they seek to answer patient questions.

Many of us in the Medical Cannabis community believe that real-world data is just as important to making wise decisions as its clinical counterparts. Clinical studies are tightly controlled, and for good reason. But they rarely reflect real-world settings. On the other hand, actual Medical Cannabis patients are the epitome of real-world users experiencing real-world circumstances. The knowledge they offer is invaluable.

It is safe to say that we need as much data as we can get our hands on. The more data we have to inform our decisions, the wiser our decisions are likely to be. We applaud the effort to gather and analyze real-world data to better understand the vast potential of cannabis to treat a long list of diseases and illnesses. We firmly believe that real-world data has a significant role to play in informing our decisions.

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Published March 18, 2024

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