New app shows how cannabinoids could interact with other drugs
A new web application developed by Penn State researchers could help pharmacists and other healthcare providers improve patient safety by reducing unintended interactions between medical and recreational marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) products and other medications. Researchers from Penn State College of Medicine said that medical marijuana and CBD have become more available to consumers at local retail stores, pharmacies, or even through illicit means, and that these products may affect the metabolism of other medications.
Cannabinoid Drug Interaction Review (CANN-DIR) is a free web resource that rates cannabinoid products such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD, or a combination of both (THC and CBD) in a single product against a drug database common over-the-counter and prescription drugs. CANN-DIR was developed by researchers at the College of Medicine, which is one of nine medical marijuana University Clinical Research Centers in Pennsylvania.
Users select the cannabinoid product a patient is taking and then select the other drugs they use. CANN-DIR then provides information on how the THC and/or CBD product could potentially affect the metabolism, or breakdown, of other selected drugs.
Kent Vrana, Elliot S. Vesell Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Project Leader, said it is important for healthcare professionals and patients to understand that cannabinoid products, whether prescribed or used at recreational purposes, may influence the activity of other drugs. For example, drugs like warfarin, often used to prevent blood clots, have a narrow therapeutic index in which small differences in the amount of active ingredient in the blood could lead to treatment failure or adverse events, such as bleeding.
“Some drugs can affect how others are broken down by the body, which can be problematic for drugs with a narrow therapeutic index,” Vrana said. “People may not realize that THC and CBD products have the ability to change how other drugs are metabolized, and that’s an important conversation for patients and healthcare providers to have between CANN-DIR can help facilitate these conversations and provide useful information for healthcare providers when prescribing medications for their patients.
The information contained in the CANN-DIR database has been researched by Vrana and Paul Kocisclinical pharmacist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. The financing of the Medical Innovation Center at the College of Medicine allowed Vrana and Kocis to connect with Penn Harrisburg State computer science students Samuel Wadrose, Aqib Ahmed and Rohan Gajjar, who worked on the app as part of their capstone project last spring. With the mentorship of their academic advisor, Hyuntae Naan assistant professor in the School of Science, Engineering and Technology, the team launched the first version of the app on March 22. Currently, another group of computer science students is working on version 2, which the researchers plan to be more user-friendly for patients and their caregivers.
“CANN-DIR’s goal is to provide healthcare providers with an additional resource to improve patient safety by reducing unintended drug interactions,” Kocis said. “We hope this resource will also draw attention to how cannabinoids can affect the metabolism of other drugs.”
The research described above was funded in part by PA Options for Wellness.