Introduction: Clinical trials remain the gold standard for evaluating efficacy, but there is increasing interest in using real-world evidence (RWE) to inform health care decision making. The aims of this observational study were to describe patterns of medical cannabis use, associated changes in symptom severity over time, and to evaluate change in cannabis dose over time for pain-related symptoms. Methods: Data were collected by Strainprint™, an application that is HIPAA, PIPEDA, and PHIPA compliant. A total of 629 participants recorded data between May 2017 and August 2019. A total of 65 symptoms were grouped as Pain, Mental Health, Physical Symptoms, Seizures, Headaches/Migraines, and Other. Descriptive statistics and mixed-effects modeling were applied. Results: THC-dominant products were more frequently consumed for symptoms of pain and sleep, while CBD-dominant products were more frequently consumed for anxiety and depression. Male and female participants demonstrated significant differences in the type of cannabis they consumed. Females more frequently consumed CBD-dominant products, and males more frequently consumed balanced (THC:CBD) products. Oil use was more prominent among females, while vaping was more common among males. Product use also varied by age tertiles (<31; 31-39; >40 years). CBD-dominant products were more common among younger participants, <31 years, THC-dominant products were more common among the 31-39 years category and balanced (THC:CBD) products were common among older participants >41 years. Dosages of CBD-dominant and balanced (THC:CBD) products increased over time irrespective of symptom response. THC-dominant products demonstrated a significant relationship between dose and symptom reduction over time. Conclusions: Recognizing that RWE has important methodological limitations, we observed cannabis product preferences based on demographic characteristics, such as gender and age and the primary symptom treated such as pain and anxiety. Our study offers real-world insights into how participants use and respond to cannabis products and suggests important avenues and methodologies for future research.
Keywords: medical cannabis; pain; real-world data; self-titration; symptom management.