Use of cannabinoid-based medicine among older residential care recipients diagnosed with dementia: Study protocol for a double-blind randomised crossover trial


Background: Dementia is a neurological condition that affects the cognitive and functional ability of the brain and is the leading cause of disability among those aged 65 years and above. More effective ways to manage dementia symptoms are needed because current treatment options (antidepressants and antipsychotics) can be ineffective and are associated with substantial side effects, including increased rate of mortality. Cannabinoid-based medicine (CBM) has shown an ability to inhibit some symptoms associated with dementia, and the adverse effects are often minimal; yet, little research has explored the use of CBM among this population.

Aim: To monitor the safety of a purified dose of CBM oil (3:2 delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol) on behaviour symptoms, quality of life and discomfort caused by pain.

Methods/design: We will carry out an 18-week, randomised, double-blind crossover trial that consists of a 2-week eligibility period, two 6-week treatment cycles, and two 2-week washout periods (between both cycles and after the second treatment cycle). We aim to recruit 50 participants with dementia who are living in residential agedcare facilities. The participants will be randomised into two groups and will receive a dose of either CBM oil or placebo for the first treatment cycle and the opposite medication for the second. Data will be collected using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory Questionnaire, the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory, the Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s Disease questionnaire, and the Abbey Pain Scale on seven occasions. These will be completed by the participants, aged-care staff, and nominated next of kin or family members. The participants’ heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored weekly, and their body composition and weight will be monitored fortnightly by a research nurse, to assess individual dose response and frailty. In addition, pre- and post-surveys will be administered to aged-care staff and family members to understand their perceptions of CBM and to inform proposed focus groups consisting of the aged-care staff and next of kin.

Discussion: The study design has been informed by medical professionals and key stakeholders, including those working in the residential aged-care industry to ensure patient safety, collection of non-invasive measures, and methodological rigor and study feasibility.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ACTRN12619000474156. Registered on 21 March 2019


dementia, medicinal cannabis, quality of life, Pain, behavioural and neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia (BPSD), crossover trial

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