Cannabinoids associated with negative respiratory health effects in older adults with COPD

September 30, 2020

Cannabinoids, a class of prescription pills that contain synthetically-made chemicals found in marijuana, are associated with a 64 per cent increase in death among older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the first published data on the impact of cannabinoids on the respiratory health of individuals with the lung disease.

The findings, published Wednesday in Thorax, have significant clinical implications as more physicians prescribe cannabinoids to patients with COPD to treat chronic muscle pain, difficulty sleeping and breathlessness.

The study, led by St. Michael's Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, found that cannabinoids can contribute to negative respiratory health events in people with COPD, including hospitalization and death. COPD is a progressive lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and chronic productive coughing, and can be associated with a variety of non-respiratory issues, like chronic muscle pain and insomnia.

"Cannabinoid drugs are being increasingly used by older adults with COPD, so it is important for patients and physicians to have a clear understanding of the side-effect profile of these drugs," says Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, lead author, a respirologist at St. Michael's and an associate scientist at the hospital's Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.

"Our study results do not mean that cannabinoid drugs should be never used among older adults with COPD. Rather, our findings should be incorporated by patients and physicians into prescribing decision-making. Our results also highlight the importance of favouring lower over higher cannabinoid doses, when these drugs actually do need to be used."

The study analyzed the health data of over 4,000 individuals in Ontario ages 66 years and older with COPD from 2006 to 2016. The data was equally split into two groups: older adults with COPD who were new cannabinoid users and older adults with COPD not using cannabinoids. Older adults in Ontario with COPD who were new cannabinoid users represented 1.1 per cent of the data, which was made available by ICES.

Researchers observed particularly worse health outcomes among patients with COPD who were using higher doses of cannabinoids. Compared to non-users, new higher-dose cannabinoid users had a 178 per cent relative increase in hospitalizations for COPD or pneumonia, and a 231 per cent relative increase in all-cause death.

"Older adults with COPD represent a group that would likely be more susceptible to cannabinoid-related respiratory side-effects, since older adults less efficiently break down drugs and hence, drug effects can linger in the body for longer - and since individuals with COPD have pre-existing respiratory troubles and respiratory compromise," says Dr. Vozoris, who is also a scientist at ICES.

Researchers conducted a sub-analysis to explore what impact cannabinoid drugs versus opioid drugs had on respiratory outcomes among older adults with COPD, since cannabinoid drugs are often prescribed as an alternative to opioids to treat chronic pain. The research team did not find evidence to support that cannabinoids were a safer choice over opioids for older adults with COPD in so far as respiratory health outcomes.
-end-


St. Michael's Hospital

Related COPD Articles from Brightsurf:

Promising therapeutic approach against COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the most common and deadliest diseases worldwide.

COPD underdiagnosed in older adults, but can be managed
''Recognizing and Treating COPD in Older Adults'' the latest issue of the What's Hot newsletter from The Gerontological Society of America, addresses what is known about the prevalence, incidence, and impact of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in older adults.

Undersized airways may explain why nonsmokers get COPD
A mismatch between airway and lung size may explain why some nonsmokers get COPD and some heavy smokers do not, according to a new study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Is pulmonary rehab after hospitalization for COPD associated with better survival?
Claims data for nearly 200,000 Medicare patients were used to examine the association between starting pulmonary rehabilitation within 90 days of being hospitalized for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and survival after one year.

COPD and smoking associated with higher COVID-19 mortality
Current smokers and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have an increased risk of severe complications and higher mortality with COVID-19 infection, according to a new study published May 11, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jaber Alqahtani of University College London, UK, and colleagues.

COPD as a lung stem cell disease
Two internationally renowned stem cell researchers at the University of Houston have found an abundance of abnormal stem cells in the lungs of patients who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a leading cause of death worldwide.

New hope for COPD patients possible with in-home device
In a new paper published Feb. 4 in JAMA, Mayo Clinic researchers describe the benefits of in-home noninvasive ventilation therapy, which includes a type referred to as bilevel positive airway pressure, or BiPAP -- for many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD appears to cause more severe symptoms in women
Women who develop COPD report smoking fewer cigarettes than men; and yet, women experience greater breathing impairments, are subjected to more acute exacerbations of symptoms and report lower quality of life than men with the disease, according to research presented at ATS 2019.

African-Americans with COPD appear less likely to use pulmonary rehab
African-American patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, are less likely to participate in pulmonary rehabilitation programs than white patients, even when there are programs nearby.

COPD and type 2 diabetes
COPD and type 2 diabetes are two highly prevalent global health conditions associated with high mortality and morbidity.

Read More: COPD News and COPD Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.