Australian-first study trialling cannabis with residents with dementia

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A West Australian study is investigating the impact of medicinal cannabis on the quality of life and behaviours of aged care residents living with dementia.

The study is being conducted by the Institute of Health Research, which is based at University at Notre Dame Australia’s Fremantle campus, in partnership with Israel-based pharmaceutical company MGC Pharmaceuticals.

Lead researcher Dr Amanda Timler said the study aimed to improve the quality of life of participants and relieve any negative symptoms associated with dementia.

Dr Amanda Timler

“We are looking to monitor behavioural changes and improvements in quality of life and pain throughout the duration of the study,” Dr Timler told Australian Ageing Agenda.

The trial also aims to increase awareness about the use of medicinal cannabis in aged care facilities, said Dr Timler, who is a research officer at the Institute of Health Research.

“We are hoping to see it will ameliorate some of the symptoms associated with dementia,” she said.

“The benefits that we hope to see are around behavioural symptoms such as agitation and aggression. We also have some evidence that shows that it can help improve sleep cycles as well as potentially increase appetite.

The researchers are currently recruiting 50 residents who are living with dementia from across several aged care facilities in Perth to participate in the study. Participants also need to be aged 65 years or over and be able to speak English.

Participants will receive medicinal cannabis via an oral spray with the dose monitored and adjusted throughout the study.

“Over a four-week period, we will continuously measure and adjust the dose of cannabis and increase the amount and number of sprays residents receive to their most tolerable dose,” Dr Timler said.

Each participant will be involved in the study for 18 weeks. They and their family members and primary carers will be asked to complete questionnaires to assist with monitoring changes in behaviour.

The overall study, which will commence in the next two months, will take place over 14 months.

Aged care facilities interested in participating in the study can email or phone Dr Amanda Timler at amanda.timler@nd.edu.au or (08) 9344 0795.

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