The cannabis extract nabiximols (Sativex®) effectively supresses withdrawal symptoms and cravings in treatment resistant cannabis dependent individuals, who have high relapse rates following conventional withdrawal treatments. This study examines the efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness of longer-term nabiximols treatment for outpatient cannabis dependent patients who have not responded to previous conventional treatment approaches.
A phase III multi-site outpatient, randomised, double-blinded, placebo controlled parallel design, comparing a 12-week course of nabiximols to placebo, with follow up at 24 weeks after enrolment. Four specialist drug and alcohol outpatient clinics in New South Wales, Australia. One hundred forty-two treatment seeking cannabis dependent adults, with no significant medical, psychiatric or other substance use disorders. Nabiximols is an oromucosal spray prescribed on a flexible dose regimen to a maximum daily dose of 32 sprays; 8 sprays (total 21.6 mg tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 20 mg cannabidiol (CBD)) four times a day, or matching placebo, dispensed weekly. All participants will receive six-sessions of individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and weekly clinical reviews. Primary endpoints are use of non-prescribed cannabis (self-reported cannabis use days, urine toxicology), safety measures (adverse events and abuse liability), and cost effectiveness (incremental cost effectiveness in achieving additional Quality Adjusted Life Years). Secondary outcomes include, improvement in physical and mental health parameters, substance use other than cannabis, cognitive functioning and patient satisfaction measures.
This is the first outpatient community-based randomised controlled study of nabiximols as an agonist replacement medication for treating cannabis dependence, targeting individuals who have not previously responded to conventional treatment approaches. The study and treatment design is modelled upon an earlier study with this population and more generally on other agonist replacement treatments (e.g. nicotine, opioids).
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry: ACTRN12616000103460 (Registered 1st February 2016).