QUEST Initiative delivers promising early results on the impact of medicinal cannabis

HIF News

HIF Australia

HIF is pleased to announce initial results from the QUEST Initiative.

The Quality of Life Evaluation Study (QUEST Initiative) is one of the world’s largest longitudinal clinical studies investigating the effect of medicinal cannabis on patient quality of life.  

Analysis of three-month follow up results from 2,327 Australian patients participating in the QUEST Initiative, sponsored by HIF’s partner Little Green Pharma, show:

  • Very strong evidence of clinically meaningful improvements for those suffering health-related quality of life (HRQL) and fatigue.
  • Clinically meaningful reductions in pain and significant improvements for moderate-severe anxiety and depression.

Three-month results for those patients assessed for sleep disorders found no change despite the very strong evidence of statistical improvement in feelings of fatigue.  However, these findings reflect the grouping of all medicinal cannabis oil formulations used by participants. Further analysis of the 12-month findings will seek to identify whether specific product formulations had a differing impact on sleep.

"Clinically meaningful results" in a study refer to findings that have a significant and important impact on a person's health or well-being.

The outcomes also hold substantial clinical significance, particularly given the strict eligibility criteria for medicinal cannabis prescription in Australia, where patients must have exhausted conventional treatment options.

The 12-month results are currently being reviewed to assess whether improvements are maintained over the longer term. In addition, further studies will be undertaken in relation to use of medicinal cannabis to alleviate sleep disorders.

HIF CEO Justin James said he was encouraged by the three-month findings from the QUEST Initiative. “We’re very much looking forward to the 12-month results and understanding whether improvements are maintained over the longer term,” he said.

The QUEST Initiative, supported by HIF, was led by the University of Sydney with Little Green Pharma exclusively supplying the subsidised medicinal cannabis products to patients, including HIF members, enrolled in the study.

The study was guided by an experienced advisory group and endorsed by a range of national bodies, such as MS research Australia, Chronic Pain Australia, Arthritis Australia and Epilepsy Australia.

Dr. Jamie Rickcord, an independent general practitioner involved in the QUEST Initiative, said:

“The QUEST results show that medicinal cannabis provides statistically, and more importantly, clinically significant improvements in pain levels, fatigue and quality of life for patients. Doctors can have confidence in offering medicinal cannabis treatment as an option to those who qualify for it as result of emerging real-world data provided by initiatives such as QUEST”.

Little Green Pharma Head of Research & Innovation Dr Leon Warne said of the three-month findings: “Little Green Pharma is extremely proud to be part of this significant study into the effect of medicinal cannabis on patient quality of life.

“These initial results are highly encouraging, highlighting the significant improvements in health-related quality of life and fatigue levels as well as improvements to health conditions associated with anxiety, depression and pain among Australian patients who participated in the study. 

“As well as the medical benefits to patients, this study was able to provide access to experienced prescribers and more affordable medication. We now look forward to what the 12-month results show in terms of longer-term impact of medicinal cannabis on QUEST patients.” 

In 2020, HIF became the first major Australian health fund to declare support for access to medicinal cannabis treatments and research in Australia.

Mr James said studies like the QUEST Initiative provide insights that are valuable not just for HIF and its members but the health insurance industry as a whole.

“We are always interested in supporting studies into the health effectiveness of medicinal cannabis,” he said. “They allow us to gain more information about the effectiveness of using medicinal cannabis to treat chronic conditions and how we can make these types of medications more economical going forward.”

Results from The QUEST Initiative come after the recent launch of the new QUEST Global study led by another Australian university and sponsored by Little Green Pharma and HIF, to assess whether medicinal cannabis reduces the economic impact of chronic disease by reducing both the number of medications a patient requires and their need for healthcare services.

“HIF provides choice to members so they can have the flexibility to control their own medical outcomes,” Mr James said. “Supporting members with medicinal cannabis as a treatment option is another choice that we are proud to provide members.

“HIF members will once again have priority access to QUEST Global as participants, provided they meet the eligibility criteria.”

Peer reviewed findings from the QUEST Initiative are available in open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Category:HIF News