McMaster University in Hamilton and St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton have teamed up to launch a new multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to cannabis research.
The multidisciplinary Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) will focus on conducting research, sharing evidence-based information and creating a network of professionals interested in further understanding medicinal cannabis.
“Medicinal cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, but there is still little research proving its effectiveness,” a statement from the CMCR said.
Leading the initiative are co-directors James MacKillop and Jason Busse and medical advisor, Dr. Ramesh Zacharias.
MacKillop is a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and director of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Busse is an associate professor of anesthesia for McMaster’s medical school and a researcher for the Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre. Zacharias is a pain specialist, medical director of the Michael G. DeGroote Pain Clinic at Hamilton Health Sciences and assistant chief coroner for Ontario.
“Medicinal cannabis use is skyrocketing in Canada and the number of possible conditions keeps rising, but the state of the evidence is often quite poor,” said MacKillop. “There is an urgent need for rigorous, objective, multidisciplinary research on medicinal cannabis. That need was the impetus for creating this centre.”
The leadership team, working with more than 25 researchers, seeks to understand the use of medicinal cannabis in managing pain, and other clinical indications, as well as its potential for addiction and other adverse events.
Research projects include reviews of the economic and policy implications of cannabis legislation and the development of methods to measure chemical ingredients in medicinal cannabis products.
“Prescribing of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain has outpaced the evidence to support this practice,” said Busse. “We will provide high-quality research to guide evidence-based decision-making by patients and clinicians.”
The creation of a community dedicated to generating the clinical evidence required for informed medicinal cannabis use now and in the future is critical, said Zacharias.
“One of the lessons learned from the current opioid crisis is that we need good research to clearly identify the appropriate use of medicinal cannabis and to limit potential harm,” said Zacharias. “We need to ensure we do not make the same mistakes made with opioid prescribing.”
The Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research is funded by the Michael G. DeGroote Initiative for Innovation in Healthcare, with contributions from philanthropists Michael G. DeGroote and the Boris family of Hamilton.
“At McMaster, we have a commitment to discovery and innovation and the issues critical to our community, and this new centre will be delving into important concerns regarding the health care of Canadians,” said Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice-president, Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster.
Kevin Smith, CEO of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, added: “We must address the changing needs of our communities and our patients. It is our responsibility to lead research that will bring evidence into practice to improve the health and outcomes for patients.”
St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton provides regional services, serving nearly 24,000 patients annually in its mental health and addictions program.
“A reality of the mental health landscape is that cannabis use and misuse are very common among psychiatric patients,” said MacKillop. “That’s why it is important for this research centre to be directly connected to a major mental health-care provider.”
The centre is hosting its first conference on the science of cannabis, with local, national and international experts in the field on Feb. 9 and 10, 2018 in Hamilton. More information may be found at cannabisresearch.mcmaster.ca/conference.