In August, the University of Pittsburgh and Parallel, a multi-state cannabis company, announced plans to establish a 10-year clinical research program to study medical marijuana. Goodblend – Parallel’s global retail brand – will provide the University an initial $3 million in unrestricted grants to be used for the exploration of the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis. Parallel will also dispense its cannabis formulations to research study participants.
The initial research will focus on treating sickle cell disease symptoms, with subsequent research efforts exploring other chronic conditions, including generalized anxiety disorders and chronic intractable pain.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (Pitt) is one of eight Pennsylvania academic research universities approved to conduct clinical research in association with the Commonwealth’s medical marijuana program. For its part in this medical cannabis research agreement, Parallel was granted a license for vertically-integrated operations to grow and process cannabis, and to open up to six retail locations in state.
“Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law emphasizes the need for rigorous research related to the use of medical cannabis,” Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a joint press release with Parallel. “Pitt is taking a leadership role in conducting that research and we look forward to advancing the safety and efficacy of cannabis therapies via scientific rigor. Parallel’s focus on the innovation, quality, safety and consistency of its products makes them an ideal partner for Pitt’s research program.”
The first clinical trial will be led by Dr. Laura DeCastro, M.D., associate professor of medicine and Director of Clinical Translational Research for the Sickle Cell Disease Research Center of Excellence, to investigate the role cannabis can play in treating the symptoms of sickle cell disease. The disease is a red blood cell disorder characterized by anemia and pain due to the obstruction of blood vessels by rigid and adhesive red blood cells. Approximately 100,000 Americans, including 1 in 500 African Americans, have been diagnosed from SCD, which is associated with a median life expectancy of 45 years and can result in chronic pain in 15% of patients that is typically treated with opioids.
“Patients with sickle cell disease and chronic pain have no real alternative to chronic opioid therapy, which has severe limitations and disadvantages,” said DeCastro. “We are proud to have this opportunity to study potential cannabis treatments for these patients who live in constant debilitating pain.”
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