Study Assesses Quality of Life After Cannabis Prescribed for Chronic Pain and Other Health Symptoms Interview with:
Margaret-Ann Tait | PhD candidate
Project Manager, The QUEST Initiative
Research Manager, Faculty of Medicine and Health
Sydney Nursing School, Cancer Care Research Unit
University of Sydney What is the background for this study?

Response: In 2016 Australia passed legislation that allows cannabis use for medicinal purposes. Since then, an estimated 800,000 patients have received medicinal cannabis prescriptions. We wanted to know if patients with chronic health conditions in Australia are reporting their health outcomes differently after being prescribed medicinal cannabis. We used validated questionnaires to assess their health-related quality of life, levels of fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and depression before starting therapy and then at regular intervals for three months after. 

We had 2327 patients participating from across Australia aged between 18 and 97 (the average age was 51), and nearly two thirds were female. Half of our participants were prescribed medicinal cannabis for more than one condition, with chronic pain conditions reported more frequently, followed by insomnia, anxiety, and mixed anxiety & depression.

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Study Finds Opioids No Better Than Placebo for Back or Neck Pain Relief Interview with:
Christine Lin | Professor
The University of Sydney                                           
Sydney Musculoskeletal Heatlh
Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney School of Public Health
Institute for Musculoskeletal Health                             
Gadigal Country King George V Building
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital NSW Australia What is the background for this study?

Response: Opioids are one of the most commonly prescribed pain medicines for low back pain and neck pain, but before this trial we did not have robust, direct evidence that they are effective for acute low back pain and neck pain. What are the main findings?

Response: We found that taking opioids did not relieve acute low back pain and neck pain in the short term, and led to worse outcomes in the long term. We randomly assigned people with acute low back pain or neck pain to take opioids or placebo (identical tablets but with no active ingredients) for up to 6 weeks, in addition to getting the best advise on how to manage their pain from their doctor. We followed these people up for 1 year.

At 6 weeks, people in the opioid group did not report lower pain levels compared to people in the placebo group. Nor were there differences in pain outcomes at 2 and 4 weeks, or in other outcomes such as physical function, recovery time, or quality of life.

Surprisingly at 1 year, people who took opioids had slightly worse pain and an increased risk of opioid misuse.

Sciatica: Surgical Treatment May Provide Only Temporary Pain Relief Interview with:
Chang Liu
Researcher, PHD Student
University of Sydney What is the background for this study?

Response: Sciatica is a common condition caused by lumbar nerve root compression and/or inflammation, usually due to a herniated disc. Non-surgical treatments, such as exercise, are recommended as the first step, with pharmacological and interventional options available if needed.

Surgery, specifically discectomy, is a common treatment for sciatica but evidence supporting its effectiveness is uncertain.