University of Sydney scientists have been awarded A$1.7 million by NSW Health to research the safety and efficacy of CBD as a treatment for neuropathic pain in people with spinal cord injury.
A partnership with the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, the trial will run at Sydney’s Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), a world-leading facility for brain imaging and spinal cord injury research.
Participants will trial CBD and a placebo in random order over two, six-week periods. During each treatment period, they will be asked to rate their pain and wear a wrist-worn device to measure their sleep. Participants will also attend NeuRA to complete a brain scan, questionnaires, and blood collection.
Co-investigator Professor Iain McGregor from the Lambert Initiative said: “If effective, this trial will provide gold-standard evidence to support the use of CBD for patients with neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury.
“Success… would trailblaze future research on the benefits of CBD in other neuropathic pain conditions which… remain undertreated and misunderstood.”
Participants must be over the age of 18 years with chronic neuropathic pain following a diagnosed spinal cord injury and be willing to travel to Sydney on four occasions.
PhD candidate and study coordinator Rebecca Robertson from the University of Sydney’s School of Medical Sciences said the study will use advanced brain imaging techniques to identify and understand the specific changes that occur in the brain after a spinal cord injury leading to the development of neuropathic pain.
“[It] also aims to identify a biomarker that will predict whether an individual will respond to CBD, allowing for a more individualised treatment,” she added.
Up to 80% of people with a spinal cord injury develop some degree of persistent pain, including neuropathic pain caused by damage to the spinal cord. It is often described as stabbing, burning, or numbing, with pain so severe that many regard it as the most debilitating part of their injury.
“Current treatment options for neuropathic pain are limited and often come with significant side effects that make the condition worse, highlighting a need for new treatment options,” said lead investigator Professor Luke Henderson from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre and the School of Medical Sciences.
“Doctors are increasingly prescribing cannabis-based products for neuropathic pain,” added McGregor. “But the lack of clinical studies makes it difficult for doctors to guide patients on the correct dosage for optimal efficacy and safety.”