Researchers at the University of Notre Dame in Western Australia want to transform the way we treat dementia and other cognitive impairments associated with old age. And they hope their upcoming study will point the way. In partnership with MGC Pharmaceuticals, the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Health Research is conducting the first-ever clinical trials to study cannabis as a treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms in humans. Over 14 months, researchers will conduct a series of 16-week trials involving a total of 50 participants, all aged 65 and older. The actual clinical trials are currently slated to begin in early 2020, and Phase II is currently underway to recruit eligible participants.
Studies on cannabis that actually involve humans are very few and far between. But late this August, the University of Notre Dame in Western Australia’s (UNDA) Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) gave the green light to Institute for Health Research scientists to carry out the first clinical trials to study cannabis as a treatment for mild dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The HREC approval followed the completion of an ethical review, required under Australia’s National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research rules, to ensure the well-being of patients involved in the study. According to Institute for Health Research Director, Prof. Jim Codde, the planning for the study has been extremely detailed and involved, bringing together medical experts, elder care practitioners and industry stakeholders.
UNDA’s Institute for Health Research has partnered with MGC Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical company with operations in Israel, Slovenia, Czech Rep., the UK and Australia, to conduct the study. MGC will supply UNDA researchers with a specially-formulated medical cannabis product called CogniCann.
CogniCann is an oral spray containing a proprietary blend of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. The formula’s CBD to THC ratio was specifically developed for the treatment of dementia symptoms and to improve related cognitive functions, according to MGC Pharmaceuticals.
Overall, researchers are aiming to enroll 50 participants in the first-ever clinical trials. To qualify, participants must be 65 years or older, living with mild dementia or Alzheimer’s and a resident of an accredited elder care facility.
Researchers will begin the 16-week, randomized, double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled trials to test the effectiveness of CogniCann in the coming months. Researchers are still recruiting participants from the more than 350,000 Australians currently living with some form of dementia. With that number expected to double in 40 years, and 1.5 million people currently involved in the care of someone with dementia, Institute for Health Research director Jim Codde called research initiatives into dementia “a national priority.”
“We are very excited to work with MGC and the aged care sector to trial this novel approach to improve the quality of life for Australians suffering from this disease that currently has no cure,” Codde said.
The results of the upcoming study could be transformative, for Australia and for the rest of the world. Freeing dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers from the range of agitation and psychotic symptoms that come with the disease will improve quality of life not just for patients, but for their families, loved ones and caregivers, too.