Medical cannabis and cannabinoids in rheumatology: where are we now?

Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2019 Oct;15(10):1019-1032. doi: 10.1080/1744666X.2019.1665997.


Introduction: Clinicians involved in pain management can finally include cannabis or cannabis-related products in their therapeutic armamentarium as a growing number of countries have approved them for pain relief. Despite the several benefits attributed to analgesic, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties of cannabinoids, there are still significant areas of uncertainty concerning their use in many fields of medicine. The biosynthesis and inactivation of cannabinoids are regulated by a complex signaling system of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids (the endogenous ligands of cannabinoid receptors) and enzymes, with a variety of interactions with neuroendocrinological and immunological systems. Areas covered: A review of studies carried out during clinical development of cannabis and cannabis medical products in systemic rheumatic diseases was performed, highlighting the aspects that we believe to be relevant to clinical practice. Expert opinion: The growing public opinion, pushing toward the legalization of the use of cannabis in chronic pain and various rheumatological conditions, makes it necessary to have educational programs that modify the concerns and widespread preconceptions related to this topic in the medical community by increasing confidence. More extensive basic and clinical research on the mechanisms and clinical utility of cannabis and derivatives in various diseases and their long-term side effects is necessary.

Keywords: Cannabis; SLE; cannabidiol; endocannabinoid system; fibromyalgia; rheumatoid arthritis; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana / adverse effects
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / physiology
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / physiology
  • Rheumatic Diseases / drug therapy*


  • CNR2 protein, human
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cnr1 protein, rat
  • Medical Marijuana
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • Dronabinol