Skip to main content

Prescription synthetic oral cannabinoid use among older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a population-based cohort study

Vozoris NT, Yao Z, Li P, Austin PC, Stephenson AL, Gill SS, O'Donnell DE, Gershon AS, Rochon PA. Drugs Aging. 2019; Sep 24 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: 10.1007/s40266-019-00707-3.


Background — Synthetic oral cannabinoids (nabilone and dronabinol) may have adverse respiratory effects. Our purpose was to describe the scope, pattern, and patient characteristics associated with incident off-label synthetic oral cannabinoid use among older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared to older adults without COPD.

Methods — This was a retrospective, population-based, cohort study using Ontario, Canada, heath administrative data. Individuals aged 66 years or older were included, and physician-diagnosed COPD was identified using a previously validated, highly specific algorithm. Incident off-label oral cannabinoid use was examined between April 1, 2005 and March 31, 2015. Descriptive statistics were used to describe drug use patterns. Multiple logistic regression was used to identify patient characteristics associated with incident drug use.

Results — There were 172,282 older adults with COPD and 1,068,256 older adults without COPD identified between April 1, 2005 and March 31, 2015. Incident synthetic oral cannabinoid use during this period occurred with significantly greater (p < 0.001) frequency among older adults with COPD (0.6%) versus older adults without COPD (0.3%). Compared to those without COPD, older adults with COPD used synthetic cannabinoids for significantly longer durations and more frequently at higher doses.

Conclusions — Although incident off-label oral cannabinoid use was relatively low among all older Ontarian adults, this drug class was used with greater frequency and more often in potentially concerning ways among older adults with COPD. These findings raise possible safety concerns, but further research on the respiratory safety of oral cannabinoids among individuals with COPD is needed.

×