AGED care provider Catholic Homes is taking part in medicinal cannabis trials.
It has been selected by the University of Notre Dame to be part of a study by its Institute for Health Research in partnership with Israel-based MGC Pharmaceuticals.
The 14-month clinical trial will involve 50 people older than 65 with mild dementia and who live in an accredited residential aged care facility.
The search for volunteers started this month.
They will be given a medicinal cannabis oil called Cognicann as an oral spray.
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.
Safety monitors will be in place to monitor side effects, as well as withdrawal and exit strategies where needed.
More than 400,000 Australians live with dementia and more than 1.5 million Australians are involved in their care.
Catholic Homes has seven aged care residences, six of which are in the Perth metropolitan area.
Residential care services executive manager Michelle Barrow said the trial’s treatment method was a much softer approach to traditional treatments.
“We’re optimistic that the cannabis trials will help to reduce behavioural and neuropsychiatric symptoms ranging from anxiety, aggression, insomnia and hallucinations,” she said.
“Medicinal cannabis may also increase appetite in those who have experienced a loss of appetite as a symptom of dementia.”
Institute for Health Research director Professor Jim Codde said the study hoped to improve the quality of life for dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers by freeing them from agitation and psychotic symptoms that come with the disease and often affect 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,” he said.
Notre Dame pro vice-chancellor Professor Greg Blatch said the study was part of the university’s focus on ground-breaking research that made a real difference.
“Notre Dame’s health and medical research has been rated well above the world standard and is underpinned by strong partnerships with industry,” he said.
Health Minister Roger Cook announced last week GPs would be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis without referring patients to a specialist.
The change brings WA closer into line with other Australian jurisdictions including NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
Doctors will still be required to seek specialist approval when prescribing for children under the age of 16 and for patients who are drug dependent or have a history of drug use.
The change came after a three-year Department of Health review.
There were 876 approvals to prescribe medicinal cannabis in WA from November 2016 to August 2019.
“Medicinal cannabis is often prescribed as a drug of last resort for people who are suffering and in terrible pain,” Mr Cook said.