Context: The management of behavioral symptoms and rigidity in patients with dementia constitutes a significant challenge. Short-term studies suggest an interest in the use of medical cannabis, but long-term data are lacking.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to investigate the feasibility and long-term safety of administering tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol (THC/CBD) treatment as an additional drug to a poly medicated population with severe dementia, evaluate clinical improvements, and collect information on the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids and possible drug-drug interactions.
Methods: A prospective observational study of patients with severe dementia living in a long-term care home to whom the physicians had prescribed a medical cannabis treatment. Data were collected over 2 years. We assessed the changes in medical cannabis dosages, safety parameters, variations in neuropsychiatric problems, agitation, rigidity, the most invalidating daily activity, and disabling behavior trouble scores. We evaluated the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids by measuring plasma levels and analyzing the enzymatic activity.
Results: We assessed 19 patients (81.4 years-17 women and two men) receiving an average of 12.4 mg THC/24.8 mg CBD per day for up to 13 months, with no reported problems related to the treatment and limited adverse drug reactions. Clinical scores showed a marked improvement that was stable over time, deprescription of other medications, and care facilitated. The pharmacokinetic evaluation showed an expected slight reduction in the enzymatic activity of CYP1A2 and CYP2C19.
Conclusion: A long-term THC/CBD (1:2) medication can be administered safely and with overall positive clinical improvement to poly medicated older adults with severe dementia and associated problems. The results must be confirmed in a randomized trial.
Keywords: cannabinoids; dementia; long-term care; medical cannabis; symptoms relief.
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