Philadelphia is quickly becoming a focal point in the nation’s fight for marijuana reform, with most of the attention on the city directed at Philadelphia’s new district attorney, Larry Krasner, who is championing a radical reform agenda aimed at transforming criminal justice. But Philly is also home to the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, one of the country’s leading medical cannabis research centers.
Last week, the Lambert Center made major medical cannabis news when it announced a new initiative for patients suffering from chronic diseases — and, if the initiative succeeds, it will produce the largest database of medical marijuana health outcomes to date.
Pioneering Medical Cannabis Research Center Launches Trailblazing Patient Initiative
On Thursday, Thomas Jefferson University issued a press release announcing that the university’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp had partnered with ioVita, a digital health startup, to launch a new initiative called mmj.org.
The mmj.org initiative is the first of its kind: its goals are to further the scientific understanding of medical cannabis by collecting information directly from patients and caregivers. To do so, it’s establishing a voluntary medical cannabis patient registry; once enrolled, patients who use medical cannabis can self-report on their health outcomes.
The Lambert center hopes to enroll at least 100,000 patients in the mmj.org registry. That would make it the largest single database of patient health outcomes in the United States.
The registry will be an indispensable resource not just for patients and caregivers, but also for researchers, since longitudinal studies gather data about individuals or groups over a long period of time — and in the field of medical cannabis research, they are scarce.
“We are launching the mmj.org patient registry to fill significant gaps in the science,” Steven K. Klasko, TJU president and CEO, said in a press release. “The Lambert Center’s leadership in this emerging area of medicine exemplifies Jefferson’s commitment to advance the leading edge of medicine and transform the status quo in US healthcare.”
The Lambert Center, Medical Marijuana, and MS
The Lambert Center’s mmj.org registry will collect health outcome data from anyone who uses cannabis for medical reasons. Most of the data will likely come from patients who use cannabis for pain relief, which, according to Harvard University, is the most common use of medical marijuana in the U.S.
But other patient groups will also provide crucial data for researchers: those who use cannabis to treat neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis (MS). For these patient communities, medical cannabis represents an area of emerging interest. Studies show 95 percent of patients with MS believe medical marijuana could be a viable course of treatment. Furthermore, a 2017 survey found that roughly 52 percent of MS patients who used medical cannabis found the drug beneficial.
Currently, however, patients suffering from chronic diseases and their caregivers have little knowledge about which forms of cannabis are the most effective for treating a particular disease or symptom. The mmj.org registry would allow patients to share their experiences and spread knowledge about the best treatment options.
“Millions of patients with chronic diseases are seeking health benefits from marijuana and various cannabinoids, and many are left to experiment with cannabis products on their own,” Charles Pollack Jr., MD and director of the Lambert Center, said in the release. “These patients and their caregivers not only deserve our support, but they can help advance scientific understanding by sharing their experiences in a research registry designed with rigor and scale.”
When Patients Share Their Experiences with Medical Cannabis, Everyone Wins
By aiming to enroll 100,000 patients, the Lambert Center is setting a high bar for itself, but if it hits that mark, it will have established the largest and most comprehensive clinical database in the growing field of medical cannabis studies.
Once mmj.org is live this summer, medical cannabis patients will be able to enroll and share health outcomes through the website’s online portal, and The Lambert Center is also establishing partnerships with patient and healthcare organizations nationwide, including medical cannabis dispensaries. The idea is to cast a wide net to collect as much data as possible.
“Current evidence indicates that cannabinoids can be useful in the management of certain types of chronic pain, side effects of chemotherapy, and some symptoms of MS,” Pollack added. “But there is much we still need to learn.”