Australia launches world’s first clinical trial investigating medical cannabis as a treatment for Tourette’s

  • Researchers at the University of Sydney have launched a clinical trial investigating cannabis as a treatment for Tourette’s
  • The study will examine whether THC and CBD can help reduce the frequency and severity of tics for Tourette’s sufferers
  • Cannabis will be supplied by the Lambert Initiative
  • Up to 106,000 people between 5 – 18 may have Tourette’s syndrome in the UK

Currently, there is no known cure for Tourette syndrome, but researchers in Australia are hoping to find success with medical cannabis.

Traditional treatment seeks to help Tourette’s patients control their tics that inhibit everyday functioning, but not with side-effects, including weight gain, sleepiness, and depression.

Researchers are hoping that cannabis may offer a safe alternative to Tourette’s treatments, much like epilepsy patients who now have medical cannabis treatments which do not run the risk of leaving them brain-damaged as the pharmaceutical medications could do.

Australian scientists at Wesley Medical Research are launching the pioneering clinical trial, using cannabis supplied by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney, to investigate the potential efficacy of medicinal cannabis as a treatment for Tourette’s syndrome.

For the investigation, researchers will provide participants either with medical cannabis or a placebo, monitoring them over two treatment periods. Whether the participants are given the placebo or cannabis will remain unknown to both the researchers and subjects until the trial is completed.

The study will examine the viability, and more importantly, the safety, of using cannabinoids to reduce tic frequency as well as the psychiatric and cognitive symptoms associated with Tourette syndrome.

“The purpose of this clinical trial is to investigate whether medicinal cannabis is a potential therapy for people with Tourette syndrome,“ said Dr. Philip Mosley, Chief Investigator and neuropsychiatrist at Wesley Medical Research, explaining how important scientific research is for the future of medical cannabis:

“Given the public interest in the therapeutic use of cannabis, it’s important to conduct rigorous and methodologically-sound research.”

Discussing the first-of-its-kind trial, Professor Iain McGregor, Academic of the Lambert Initiative, explained why the group decided to investigate cannabinoid treatment for Tourette’s:

“There is already early evidence to support the successful treatment of Tourette syndrome with cannabinoids.

”This clinical trial could have a major impact and greatly improve the lives of those living with Tourette syndrome.”

One of the people McGregor is trying to help is Chris Wright, 31, who has lived with Tourette’s since childhood.

Despite being prescribed pharmaceutical medication, Chris’s condition has continued to have control over his life.

Now, Chris hopes this revolutionary trial could change his life for the better:

“Any reprieve would be very welcome.

Australian Tourette's patients standing next to cannabis researcher in Australia
Tourette syndrome trial participant Chris Wright (left) and Dr Philip Mosley of Wesley Medical Research in Brisbane.


“It is getting to the point where I don’t know what to do, it feels as though it all gets too much sometimes.

“Tourette syndrome has really been a blow to my confidence […] my life in general, I often spend my days off sleeping and recovering just to do it all again.”

Our focus is to give people like Chris these opportunities to improve their quality of life.
– Dr. Jennifer Schafer, Senior Clinical Trials Manager at Wesley Medical Research

Dr. Jennifer Schafer, Senior Clinical Trials Manager, explained how a desire to potentially alleviate people like Chris’s suffering was a primary focus for launching the trial:

“Our focus is to give people like Chris these opportunities to improve their quality of life.

“We offer hope and answers through medical research.

“We are fortunate to have dedicated frontline clinicians like Dr. Mosley leading this important work and donors who continue to support this valuable work.”

So far, there is only limited, anecdotal, evidence that cannabis may offer relief to Tourette’s sufferers.

Clinical research is essential for progressing the availability of medical cannabis.

Despite cannabis being legalised in the UK for medicinal use in November 2018, patients are finding it impossible to get a prescription (especially on the NHS).

Only a handful of “expert” clinicians are able to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK. Only a handful to deal with millions of patients whose lives could be radically improved by medical cannabis.

The more research that is conducted, finding more and more evidence of the viability and safety of cannabinoid therapy on a plethora of medical conditions, the harder it will be for Governments to deny access to their citizens.

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