The University of Pittsburgh is partnering with cannabis company Parallel (formerly Surterra Wellness) on a 10-year medical cannabis research program. Parallel, through its retail brand Goodblend, will provide Pitt researchers $3 million in grants to study cannabis efficacy for conditions including sickle cell disease, anxiety, and chronic intractable pain.
Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine “sees great value” in the partnership “for residents of the commonwealth and beyond.”
“Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law emphasizes the need for rigorous research related to the use of medical cannabis. Pitt is taking a leadership role in conducting that research and we look forward to advancing the safety and efficacy of cannabis therapies via scientific rigor. Parallel’s focus on the innovation, quality, safety and consistency of its products makes them an ideal partner for Pitt’s research program.” – Shekar in a statement
Pitt will begin the research program with a clinical trial for sickle cell patients. The trial will investigate what role cannabis can play in treating the symptoms of the disease, which afflicts about 100,000 Americans, is associated with a median life expectancy of 45 years, and disproportionately affects African Americans.
A University of California, Irvine study published last month suggests that cannabis is a safe and potentially effective treatment for the chronic pain accompanying the disease.
Dr. Laura DeCastro, a Pitt associate professor of medicine, director of benign hematology for the Institute for Transfusion Medicine and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and director of Clinical Translational Research for the Sickle Cell Disease Research Center of Excellence, noted that patients with the disease have “no real alternative to chronic opioid therapy.”
Pitt is one of eight Pennsylvania institutions approved to conduct clinical studies as part of the state’s medical cannabis research program. Parallel has been approved for cannabis cultivation and processing licenses along with approval for six Goodblend retails locations across the state.