New app shows how cannabinoids could interact with other medications

caption arrowCaption
Products with cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, have taken the market by storm this year, with retail sales topping $1 billion according to some estimates.

THC and CBD can interfere with how some meds work, making them less effective

A study published in April 2020 found the number of Americans age 65 and older who smoke marijuana or enjoy edibles increased 75% from 2015 to 2018. Another study, six months later, showed older adults are using cannabis to treat a host of common health conditions.

As the trend continues, medical marijuana and CBD can be bought at retail stores, pharmacies or even by illicit means, and, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, these products might affect the metabolism of other medications.

ExploreMore older adults turn to cannabis to treat common ailments

To help reduce the chances of problems, researchers have developed a web-based app that shows interactions between medical and recreational marijuana and CBD products with other medications.

According to a Penn State press release: “CANNabinoid Drug Interaction Review (CANN-DIR) is a free web-based resource that evaluates cannabinoid products such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD or a combination of both (THC and CBD) in a single product against a database of common over-the-counter and prescription medications.”

“Some drugs can affect the way others are broken down by the body, which can be problematic in the case of medications with a narrow therapeutic index,” project leader Kent Vrana, an Elliot S. Vesell professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology, said in the press release. “People may not realize that THC and CBD products have the ability to change the way other drugs are metabolized, and it’s an important conversation for patients and health care providers to have with each other. CANN-DIR can help facilitate those conversations and provide useful information for health care providers when prescribing medications to their patients.”

ExploreNumber of U.S. senior citizens using cannabis up 75% in three years

One drug affected by cannabinoid use is warfarin, which is taken to prevent blood clots. Small differences in the amount of active ingredient in the blood could cause the drug to fail or have an adverse effect, such as bleeding.

“The goal of CANN-DIR is to provide health care providers an additional resource to improve patient safety by reducing unintended drug-drug interactions,” said Paul Kocis, a clinical pharmacist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “We hope this resource will also focus attention on how cannabinoids can affect the metabolism of other medications.”

For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.

About the Author

Editors' Picks