Zelira Therapeutics, an Australia-based medical cannabis company, has partnered with the Parkinson’s Foundation to learn more about patients’ usage and understanding of medical cannabis and hemp-derived treatments.

Zelira and the organization are developing a survey looking at current use and perceived benefits of medical cannabis among those with Parkinson’s (PD).

The partnership marries the nonprofit’s scientific understanding of this disease with Zelira’s experience in pharmaceutical and condition-specific medical cannabis product development. The company participated in the foundation’s first conference  focused on medical marijuana and PD last year.

“The challenge for people with Parkinson’s is clear, as there is a lack of definitive studies informing clinicians and patients with Parkinson’s about the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis,” said Tom Borger, Zelira’s chief business officer, in a press release.

“One of the objectives of the survey and this collaboration is to provide guidance to people with Parkinson’s about the need for clinically validated medical marijuana and hemp-derived [cannabidiol] CBD treatment alternatives,” he said.

Zelira and the foundation will jointly develop the survey — which will be sent to patients — and review results in preparation for a clinical trial on the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in PD.

Separately, Zelira will use survey results to inform development of clinically validated medical cannabis and hemp-derived cannabidiol medicines for PD patients, and to help guide patients in considering such alternative treatments. (Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive marijuana extract.)

“Many people with Parkinson’s disease are seeking help with their symptoms by trying various forms of medical cannabis,” said John Lehr, president and CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation. “The volume and frequency of questions Parkinson’s Foundation receive from people with Parkinson’s regarding the safety and impact of medical cannabis and CBD has led us to examine this public health issue more fully, and to seek collaborations with leaders in the field from academia, government, advocacy groups and industry to provide the most accurate information possible.”

Zelira, he added, is devoted to helping patients understand the role that medical cannabis might play in managing daily symptoms.

“This effort is consistent with our focus on patients and our desire to provide them with as many treatment options as possible,” said Osagie Imasogie, Zelira’s founder and chairman.

Currently, evidence is lacking to support the use of medical marijuana in managing Parkinson’s symptoms. The issue is being researched, but mostly in small studies with and without control groups, so that results are conflicting, the foundation said in an article that followed the 2019 conference and cites a need for larger and more rigorously conducted research.

Observational studies have shown that cannabinoids — the active molecules in marijuana — may help with non-motor PD symptoms, including pain, anxiety, weight loss and problems sleeping. Controlled clinical trials have reported mixed results for treating motor symptoms such as tremor and rigidity.

In related news, an animal study reported that a compound affecting some of the same brain receptors as cannabis could help ease dyskinesia, the uncontrolled and involuntary movements that can follow levodopa treatment in Parkinson’s.

This disease is estimated to affect about 1 million U.S. residents and 10 million people globally.

Mary M. Chapman began her professional career at United Press International, running both print and broadcast desks. She then became a Michigan correspondent for what is now Bloomberg BNA, where she mainly covered the automotive industry plus legal, tax and regulatory issues. A member of the Automotive Press Association and one of a relatively small number of women on the car beat, Chapman has discussed the automotive industry multiple times of National Public Radio, and in 2014 was selected as an honorary judge at the prestigious Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance. She has written for numerous national outlets including Time, People, Al-Jazeera America, Fortune, Daily Beast,, Newsweek, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. The winner of the Society of Professional Journalists award for outstanding reporting, Chapman has had dozens of articles in The New York Times, including two on the coveted front page. She has completed a manuscript about centenarian car enthusiast Margaret Dunning, titled “Belle of the Concours.”

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Ana holds a PhD in Immunology from the University of Lisbon and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM) in Lisbon, Portugal. She graduated with a BSc in Genetics from the University of Newcastle and received a Masters in Biomolecular Archaeology from the University of Manchester, England. After leaving the lab to pursue a career in Science Communication, she served as the Director of Science Communication at iMM.


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