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Parkinson’s Foundation Hosts Its First-Ever Medical Marijuana and Parkinson’s Disease Conference

NEW YORK AND MIAMI— December 4, 2018—The Parkinson’s Foundation will host its first-ever conference focused on medical marijuana and Parkinson’s disease (PD) in Denver, CO, March 6-7, 2019.

“The Parkinson’s Foundation is bringing together experts from across the globe to discuss the implications and recommendations of medical marijuana use for people with Parkinson’s,” said James Beck, PhD, chief scientific officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation. “Now that medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and in many other countries, people are equating access to efficacy. It is imperative that we address the clinical implications of medical marijuana use among people with PD."

The goal of the conference is to bring together a diverse group of experts from academia, clinics, industry, government and the Parkinson's community to establish a consensus on medical marijuana use in PD. The conference will address the potential benefits and risks of medical marijuana for people with PD, potential delivery methods, safety considerations, approval as a therapeutic for PD patients, and areas for more rigorous clinical research.

“Having worked as a clinician for the past decade in Colorado, a state at the forefront of medical marijuana use, it is clear that people with PD and their families are intensely interested in the potential of marijuana and cannabinoids in helping manage symptoms and other aspects of their disease,” said Benzi Kluger, MD, MS, professor at University of Colorado Hospital and co-chair of the conference. “To date, there is more hype than actual data to provide meaningful clinical information to patients with PD. There is a critical need to analyze existing data on medical marijuana and to set priorities for future research."

Recent results from a survey conducted by the Parkinson’s Foundation and Northwestern University, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, found that:

  • 80% of patients with PD have used cannabis
  • 23% of doctors received formal education on medical marijuana
  • 95% of neurologists have been asked to prescribe medical marijuana

People with PD and their physicians are looking to answer whether medical marijuana can help manage PD symptoms. Few clinical studies have enrolled people with PD to investigate the effects of medical marijuana on PD symptoms. There is currently no conclusive scientific research supporting the benefits of medical marijuana for PD, however, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may help manage Parkinson’s symptoms such as pain, sleep, appetite, nausea and anxiety.

“In order to move the field forward, we need to determine which cannabinoids are likely to be beneficial or harmful, whether people with PD are at risk from side effects, what we are hoping to treat, and how to conduct informative clinical trials,” said A. Jon Stoessl, MD, co-director of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at the University of British Columbia, and co-chair of the conference.

The conference is invitation-only. In addition to Parkinson’s specialists, select Parkinson’s advocates living with PD will be invited to provide their perspective. The Foundation will publish suggested practices and areas for further research following the conference.

For more information on medical marijuana and PD, call our Helpline, 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) or visit Parkinson.org/Marijuana.

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About the Parkinson’s Foundation 
The Parkinson’s Foundation makes life better for people with Parkinson’s disease by improving care and advancing research toward a cure. In everything we do, we build on the energy, experience and passion of our global Parkinson’s community. For more information, visit www.parkinson.org or call (800) 4PD-INFO (473-4636).

About Parkinson’s Disease 
Affecting nearly one million Americans and 10 million worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and is the 14th-leading cause of death in the United States. It is associated with a progressive loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression), as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression and anxiety). There is no cure for Parkinson’s and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.

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