AGED care residents in Perth have been selected to take part in a cannabis trial for dementia patients.
Dementia sufferers worldwide could benefit from the Western Australian study on the use of medical cannabis to treat symptoms of the degenerative condition.
WA aged care provider Catholic Homes has been selected to take part in the ground-breaking study by researchers at Fremantle-based Notre Dame University, which will look at the use of medicinal cannabis in the treatment of residential aged care patients with dementia.
The cannabis trial is being undertaken by the university's Institute for Health Research together with Israeli company MGC Pharmaceuticals. It will involved 50 participants, including some from Catholic Homes' facilities.
Over 400,000 Australians are living with dementia and more than 1.5 million Australians are involved in their care.
Catholic Homes executive manager of Residential Care Services, Michelle Barrow said: "Catholic Homes has a long term commitment to this cutting-edge treatment, which is a much softer approach to traditional treatments."
The medical cannabis oil called Cognicann will be trialled over 18 weeks as an oral spray. To be eligible for the trial participants must have a diagnosis of dementia, live in a residential aged care facility, be aged 65 years or older and are compliable to taking medication.
"We're optimistic that the cannabis trials will help to reduce behavioural and neuropsychiatric symptoms ranging from anxiety, aggression, insomnia, and hallucinations," said Ms Barrow.
"Medicinal cannabis may also increase appetite in those who have experienced a loss of appetite as a symptom of dementia."
All participants will be randomly allocated into two treatment groups where they will be administered and alternated between the medical cannabis oil and a placebo trial.
Comprehensive safety monitors will be in place to monitor side effects as well as withdrawal and exit strategies where appropriate.
The director of Institute for Health Research, Professor Jim Codde, said the ultimate aim of the study is to improve the quality of life for dementia and Alzheimer's suffers by freeing them from a range of agitation and psychotic symptoms that comes with the disease, and often impact on the their families and loved ones.
"Planning for the study has been extremely extensive and involved other key stakeholders including medical experts, aged care practitioners and our ethics committee to ensure the well-being of participants throughout the study," said Professor Codde.