Cannabinoids in the treatment of rheumatic diseases: Pros and cons

Piercarlo Sarzi-Puttini*, Jacob Ablin, Adva Trabelsi, Mary Ann Fitzcharles, Daniela Marotto, Winfried Häuser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Medical cannabis is being increasingly used in the treatment of rheumatic diseases because, despite the paucity of evidence regarding its safety and efficacy, a growing number of countries are legalising its use for medical purposes in response to social pressure. Cannabinoids may be useful in the management of rheumatic disorders for two broad reasons: their anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory activity, and their effects on pain and associated symptoms. It is interesting to note that, although a wide range of medications are available for the treatment of inflammation, including an ever-lengthening list of biological medications, the same is not true of the treatment of chronic pain, a cardinal symptom of many rheumatological disorders. The publication of systematic reviews (SR) concerning the use of cannabis-based medicines for chronic pain (with and without meta-analyses) is outpacing that of randomised controlled trials. Furthermore, narrative reviews of public institution are largely based on these SRs, which often reach different conclusions regarding the efficacy and safety of cannabis-based medicines because of the lack of high-quality evidence of efficacy and the presence of indications that they may be harmful for patients. Societal safety concerns about medical cannabis (e.g. driving risks, workplace safety and pediatric intoxication) must always be borne in mind, and will probably not be addressed by clinical studies. Medical cannabis and cannabis-based medicines have often been legalised as therapeutic products by legislative bodies without going through the usual process of regulatory approval founded on the results of traditional evidence-based studies. This review discusses the advantages and limitations of using cannabis to treat rheumatic conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102409
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Cannabinoids
  • Fibromyalgia syndrome
  • Medical cannabis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematousus
  • Systemic sclerosis


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