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Health-related quality of life in patients accessing medicinal cannabis in Australia: The QUEST initiative results of a 3-month follow-up observational study

PLoS One. 2023 Sep 6;18(9):e0290549. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0290549. eCollection 2023.


AIMS: Patients with chronic health conditions not responding to conventional treatment can access medicinal cannabis (MC) prescriptions from clinicians in Australia. We aimed to assess overall health-related quality of life (HRQL), pain, fatigue, sleep, anxiety, and depression in a large real-world sample of patients accessing prescribed medicinal cannabis. We hypothesized that all patient-reported outcomes (PROs) would improve from baseline to 3-months.

METHODS: The QUEST Initiative is a large prospective multicenter study of patients with any chronic health condition newly prescribed medicinal cannabis between November 2020 and December 2021. Eligible patients were identified by 120 clinicians at medical centers across six Australian states. Consenting participants completed the EuroQol Group EQ-5D-5L health status questionnaire; European Organization for Research & Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life questionnaire (QLQ-C30); Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Short Forms in Fatigue and Sleep Disturbance, and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) before starting therapy, at 2-weeks titration, then monthly for 3-months.

RESULTS: Of the 2762 consenting participants, 2327 completed baseline and at least one follow-up questionnaire. Ages ranged between 18-97 years (mean 51y; SD = 15.4), 62.8% were female. The most commonly treated conditions were chronic pain (n = 1598/2327; 68.7%), insomnia (n = 534/2327; 22.9%), generalized anxiety (n = 508/2327; 21.5%), and mixed anxiety and depression (n = 259/2327; 11%). Across the whole cohort both EQ-5D-5L utility scores and QLQ-C30 summary scores showed clinically meaningful improvement in HRQL from baseline to mean follow-up with d = 0.54 (95%CI:0.47 to 0.59) and d = 0.64 (95%CI:0.58 to 0.70) respectively; and clinically meaningful improvement in fatigue (d = 0.54; 95%CI:0.48 to 0.59). There was clinically meaningful reduction of pain for those with chronic pain (d = 0.65; 95%CI:0.57 to 0.72); significant improvements for those with moderate to extremely severe anxiety (X2 = 383; df = 4; p<0.001) and depression (X2 = 395; df = 4; p<0.001); and no changes in sleep disturbance.

CONCLUSIONS: We observed statistically significant, clinically meaningful improvements in overall HRQL and fatigue over the first 3-months in patients with chronic health conditions accessing prescribed medical cannabis. Anxiety, depression, and pain also improved over time, particularly for those with corresponding health conditions. The study continues to follow-up patients until 12-months to determine whether improvements in PROs are maintained long-term.

TRAIL REGISTRATION: Study registration – Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12621000063819.

PMID:37672515 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0290549

By Nevin Manimala

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