Arthritis Foundation Releases First CBD Guidance for Adults With Arthritis

The Arthritis Foundation, in partnership with top experts in arthritis pain and CBD, offers patients a practical, first-of-its-kind resource with answers to their most common questions.

ATLANTA, SEPTEMBER 24, 2019 – As the leading organization for people with arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation has just released the first CBD guidance for adults with arthritis. CBD, or cannabidiol, a plant-based compound, has become popular among people with arthritis seeking to ease chronic joint pain. With no federal oversight of CBD products, a lack of scientific evidence for safety or effectiveness, and even uncertainty about its legality, there has been vast confusion for patients with arthritis and health care providers too.

“While CBD is controversial and its effectiveness inconclusive, people with arthritis aren’t waiting to try it to treat their pain,” said Cindy McDaniel, Arthritis Foundation senior vice president of consumer health and impact. “To help gain a deeper understanding about how people with arthritis feel about using CBD, we conducted a national survey in July. Our survey results confirmed the need to push for more regulation and provide useful CBD guidance.”  

Of the 2,600 people who responded to the survey*, 79% are currently using CBD, have used it in the past or are considering using it as an alternative therapy to help manage their arthritis pain.  

To develop the CBD guidance for adults with arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation partnered with leading CBD and arthritis pain experts – Daniel Clauw, MD, Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, MD, and Kevin Boehnke, PhD – to develop practical guidance that addresses top questions.

“Millions of people in the U.S. are likely trying to use cannabinoids to treat pain, and many are doing this in ways that might cause more harm than good, especially when they use high doses of THC,” said Daniel Clauw, MD, a professor of anesthesiology, rheumatology and psychiatry at the University of Michigan and director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. (CBD is one of the more than 100 cannabinoids, or active compounds, in cannabis. THC, another compound, is the chemical in marijuana that gets users high. CBD is not intoxicating.)

“It’s important that the Arthritis Foundation has taken a stand on CBD,” Dr. Clauw said. “Right now, it appears to be fairly safe and might help certain types of pain. It’s far better to give this guidance, even if preliminary, because otherwise people will have no guidance whatsoever.”  

The Arthritis Foundation also sent a formal comment to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July urging the agency to expedite the study and regulation of CBD products to help make them a safe option for the 54 million people with arthritis.  

The official statement from the Arthritis Foundation reads:

As the largest organization representing the voice and needs of people with arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation has always welcomed new treatment options because no single drug, supplement or therapy works for everyone. We believe patients should be empowered to find safe management strategies that are appropriate for them. The more options available, the likelier it is that more people will benefit.

We are intrigued by the potential of CBD to help people find pain relief and are on record urging the FDA to expedite the study and regulation of these products. While currently there is limited scientific evidence about CBD’s ability to help ease arthritis symptoms, and no universal quality standards or regulations exist, we have listened to our constituents and consulted with leading experts** to develop these general recommendations for adults who are interested in trying CBD.  

“Listening to people with arthritis – using data (surveys and Live Yes! INSIGHTS), patient listening sessions and testimonies – drives our work, from science to programming to setting our advocacy agenda,” said the Arthritis Foundation’s McDaniel.

The Arthritis Foundation continues to ask people with arthritis to raise their voice and share their day-to-day experiences via Live Yes! INSIGHTS, so the organization can continue to break down barriers to care, accelerate research and tailor local and national programs that fit the needs of people with arthritis.

“The Arthritis Foundation values the patient voice,” said Stacy Courtnay, rheumatoid arthritis patient and a member of the Arthritis Foundation Patient Leadership Council. “Some doctors aren’t open to discussing CBD with patients, and it’s fantastic and encouraging that the Arthritis Foundation is helping people with arthritis gain access to whatever treatments might help them.”

While there are no established clinical guidelines for CBD use, the medical experts who worked in partnership with the Arthritis Foundation agree on the following points:

  • CBD may help with arthritis-related symptoms, such as pain, insomnia and anxiety, but there have been no rigorous clinical studies in people with arthritis to confirm this.
  • While no major safety issues have been found with CBD when taken in moderate doses, potential drug interactions have been identified.
  • CBD should never be used to replace disease-modifying drugs that help prevent permanent joint damage in inflammatory types of arthritis.
  • CBD use should be discussed with your doctor in advance, with follow-up evaluations every three months or so, as would be done for any new treatment.
  • There are no established clinical guidelines to inform usage. Experts recommend starting with a low dose, and if relief is inadequate, increase in small increments weekly.
  • Buy from a reputable company that has each batch tested for purity, potency and safety by an independent laboratory and provides a certificate of analysis.

Beyond providing CBD guidance for people with arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation has a track record for bringing important issues that people with arthritis face into the public dialogue, including authoring the Osteoarthritis (OA) Voice of the Patient Report that presented treatment options most important to patients with OA and helped influence the FDA’s updated osteoarthritis research and treatment guidance and legislation calling for transparency at the pharmacy counter.

To impact the future of arthritis, visit Live Yes! INSIGHTS


*Read the survey results, “Patients Tell Us About CBD Use.”  

**Our gratitude to the following experts for their partnership and guidance:   

Kevin Boehnke, PhD, a researcher at the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, focuses on medical cannabis as an analgesic and opioid substitute in chronic pain.  

Daniel Clauw, MD, a professor of anesthesiology, rheumatology and psychiatry at the University of Michigan and director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, leads research on arthritis pain and fibromyalgia, and the effects of cannabis, particularly CBD, in pain.  

Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, MD, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, conducts research on pain and rheumatic diseases. She is the lead author of the 2019 Canadian Rheumatology Association (CRA) position statement for medical cannabis.

About the Arthritis Foundation:

The Arthritis Foundation is the Champion of Yes. Leading the fight for the arthritis community, the Foundation helps conquer everyday battles through life-changing information and resources, access to optimal care, advancements in science and community connections. The Arthritis Foundation’s goal is to chart a winning course, guiding families in developing personalized plans for living a full life – and making each day another stride towards a cure. The Foundation also publishes Arthritis Today, the award-winning magazine that reaches 4 million readers.

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Claire Villines  
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