The future of Parkinson’s and medicinal plants

Global update

Author: Simge Eva DoganPublished: 28 February 2019

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Parkinson’s Foundation will be hosting its first Parkinson’s and medical marijuana conference to address the potential health benefits and risks of the drug. We spoke to Beth Vernaleo, Director of Research Programmes at Parkinson’s Foundation, to find out what the conference hopes to achieve

Parkinson’s and medical marijuana conference next month aims to establish a consensus statement on the clinical implications of using medical marijuana to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Beth Vernaleo, Director of Research Programmes at Parkinson’s Foundation – which is behind the conference in Denver, US, on 6-7 March – says:

“I help to organise convenings on various topics that are identified by Parkinson’s community as an unmet need. We realised that medical marijuana is something that patients are asking about all the time – and there’s not a lot known about it.”

Attendees will include experts and advocates from Parkinson’s community, academia, government, industry and clinics. Beth says: “We’ve invited a diverse group of stakeholders to cover a wide range of things. We’re looking to the few studies that have been done to see what the effects for symptomatic and neuroprotective benefits are.

“There are many different strains of cannabis and there are many different ways of delivering it – such as smoking or oils. We want to discuss the possible ways to deliver different formulations and what might be most beneficial.”


Beth Vernaleo, Director of Research Programmes at Parkinson’s Foundation.

Bringing together Parkinson’s experts, the conference will also outline areas for more clinical research.

“We don’t know if we’re ready for a clinical trial yet or if we still need further research,” explains Beth. “So we’re also inviting people who have experience in clinical trial design to help decide what would be the best way to create a vigorous clinical trial.”

As well as establishing a consensus to guide Parkinson’s community on medical marijuana use, the conference also hopes to further research in this field.

“Based on research questions that come out of the meeting, we would like to put together funding for cannabis-based research in Parkinson’s. We were thinking of five projects that are a year-long that we could fund at USD $100,000 each.”

Discussing the current attitudes towards medical marijuana in Parkinson’s community, Beth says: “Many people are very interested in it, many people have tried it already. I think people are equating access with efficacy – and that’s just not the case. That’s why we want to have this meeting.”

Parkinson’s Foundation will publish areas for further research and guidance on Parkinson’s and medical marijuana use following the conference. To find out more about the conference click here.

For more information on cannabis and Parkinson’s please visit Parkinson’s Europe website.

Read more:

‘A Highbrow Dinner’: medicinal plants, great food and Parkinson’s

10 breakthrough Parkinson’s therapies to watch out for

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