Longitudinal Relationship between the Introduction of Medicinal Cannabis and Polypharmacy: An Australian Real-World Evidence Study

Int J Clin Pract. 2022 Nov 7;2022:8535207. doi: 10.1155/2022/8535207. eCollection 2022.


Background: Recent studies recommend medicinal cannabis (MC) as a potential treatment for chronic pain (CP) when conventional therapies are not successful; however, data from Australia is limited. This real-world evidence study explored how the introduction of MC related to concomitant medication use over time. Long-term safety also was examined.

Methods: Data were collected by the Emerald Clinics (a network of seven clinics located across Australia) as part of routine practice from Jan 2020 toJan 2021. Medications were classified by group: antidepressants, benzodiazepines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and total number of medications. Adverse events (AEs) were collected at each visit and subsequently coded using the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities version 23 into the system organ class (SOC) and preferred term (PT). A total of 535 patients were analyzed.

Results: The most common daily oral dose was 10 mg for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 15 mg for cannabidiol (CBD). With the introduction of MC, patients' total number of medications consumed decreased over the course of one year; significant reductions in NSAIDs, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants were observed (p < .001). However, the number of prescribed opioid medications did not differ from baseline to the end of one year (p = .49). Only 6% of patients discontinued MC treatment during the study. A total of 600 AEs were reported in 310 patients during the reporting period and 97% of them were classified as nonserious. Discussion. Though observational in nature, these findings suggest MC is generally well-tolerated, consistent with the previous literature, and may reduce concomitant use of some medications. Due to study limitations, concomitant medication reductions cannot be causally attributed to MC. Nevertheless, these data underscore early signals that warrant further exploration in randomized trials.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana*
  • Polypharmacy


  • Medical Marijuana
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal