Medical cannabis treatment for chronic pain: Outcomes and prediction of response

Eur J Pain. 2021 Feb;25(2):359-374. doi: 10.1002/ejp.1675. Epub 2020 Nov 9.


Background: Although studied in a few randomized controlled trials, the efficacy of medical cannabis (MC) for chronic pain remains controversial. Using an alternative approach, this multicentre, questionnaire-based prospective cohort was aimed to assess the long-term effects of MC on chronic pain of various aetiologies and to identify predictors for MC treatment success.

Methods: Patients with chronic pain, licensed to use MC in Israel, reported weekly average pain intensity (primary outcome) and related symptoms before and at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months following MC treatment initiation. A general linear model was used to assess outcomes and identify predictors for treatment success (≥30% reduction in pain intensity).

Results: A total of 1,045 patients completed the baseline questionnaires and initiated MC treatment, and 551 completed the 12-month follow-up. At 1 year, average pain intensity declined from baseline by 20% [-1.97 points (95%CI = -2.13 to -1.81; p < 0.001)]. All other parameters improved by 10%-30% (p < 0.001). A significant decrease of 42% [reduction of 27 mg; (95%CI = -34.89 to 18.56, p < 0.001)] from baseline in morphine equivalent daily dosage of opioids was also observed. Reported adverse effects were common but mostly non-serious. Presence of normal to long sleep duration, lower body mass index and lower depression score predicted relatively higher treatment success, whereas presence of neuropathic pain predicted the opposite.

Conclusions: This prospective study provides further evidence for the effects of MC on chronic pain and related symptoms, demonstrating an overall mild-to-modest long-term improvement of the tested measures and identifying possible predictors for treatment success.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis*
  • Chronic Pain* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Medical Marijuana* / therapeutic use
  • Prospective Studies


  • Medical Marijuana