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Cannabis studies are portrayed positively in the media regardless of the treatment effect



In studies testing cannabis for the treatment of pain, placebos provided significant pain relief. Researchers have shown that cannabis studies have a significant impact in the media regardless of the treatment effectOhn Karolinska Institutet in the study of i JAMA Network is open.

We see that cannabis studies are often described positively in the media, regardless of the results of the studies. It is a problem and can affect the expectation of pain relief in cannabis therapy. The larger the positive effects a treatment is supposed to have, the greater the potential drawbacks can be tolerated, says Philippe Gedin, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet and first author of the study.

The study is based on an analysis of published clinical studies in which cannabis was compared to a placebo in the treatment of pain. Change in pain intensity before and after treatment was the study’s primary outcome measure.

The analysis applies to studies published through September 2021. A total of 20 studies with approximately 1,500 subjects were included.

The results showed that pain intensity decreased significantly after the placebo treatment, with a moderate to significant effect. The researchers also saw no difference in pain reduction between cannabis and placebo, which is consistent with the results of another recently published meta-analysis.

– There is a clear and clinically relevant placebo response in fö cannabis studiesp smPeas, says Philip Geiden.

The KI researchers also investigated whether, in the media and in the research, there is a relationship between how effective treatment shown in cannabis studies and the effect they receive. Influence in the media was measured using so-called Altmetrics, which is a method for evaluating mentions in the media, blogs and social media. Academic impact was measured as quotes by other researchers.

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The media coverage analysis included a total of 136 stories from the media and blogs. Reporting was categorized as positive, negative, or neutral, depending on how results were presented regarding the effectiveness of cannabis in treating pain.

It turns out that the cannabis studies got a lot more attention in the media than other published studies. The effect was significant regardless of how high the placebo response was and regardless of the effect of the cannabis treatment. The researchers also saw no connection between the proportion of positively worded news the study received and the effect of cannabis treatment in that study.

The researchers say that because the research combined trials of varying designs and quality, the results should be interpreted with caution.

The research was funded by the Riksbank’s Jubileumsfond. The researchers state that there are no potential conflicts of interest.

Publishing:”Placebo response and media interest in randomized clinical trials evaluating cannabis-based therapies for pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis.“, Philip Gidden, Sebastian BloomeMoa Pontin, Maria Lalonie, Jens Faust, Andree Rackete, Victor Wadenmark Lundquistand William H. Thompson W Karen JensenAnd the JAMA Network is openOnline November 28, 2022doi: 10.1001/Jamanetworkopen.2022.43848

For more information, contact:
Philip Geiden, Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet
Tel: 070-584 3193
E-mail:
[email protected]

Karen Jensen, researcher and group leader
enterprise fear clinical neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet
Tel: 070-213 0811
E-mail: [email protected]



Contact the press service: ki.se/pressrum

Karolinska Institutet It is one of the world’s leading medical universities with a vision to drive the development of knowledge about life and work towards better health for all. In Sweden, Karolinska Institutet accounts for the largest proportion of medical academic research and has the largest body of medical education. Each year, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet appoints a Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine.

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