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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 May 2022 - 27 May 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 May 21

Pharmacol Ther

Cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system in fibromyalgia: A review of preclinical and clinical research.


Bourke S, Schlag A K, O'Sullivan S E, Nutt DJ, Finn DP
Pharmacol Ther. 2022 May 21:108216.
PMID: 35609718.


Characterised by chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain, generalised hyperalgesia, and psychological distress, fibromyalgia (FM) is a significant unmet clinical need. The endogenous cannabinoid system plays an important role in modulating both pain and the stress response. Here, we appraise the evidence, from preclinical and clinical studies, for a role of the endocannabinoid system in FM and the therapeutic potential of targeting the endocannabinoid system. While many animal models have been used to study FM, the reserpine-induced myalgia model has emerged as the most translatable to the clinical phenotype. Inhibition of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) has shown promise in preclinical studies, ameliorating pain- and anxiety-related behaviour, and not associated with the development of tolerance. Clinically, there is evidence for alterations in the endocannabinoid system in patients with FM, including single nucleotide polymorphisms and increased levels of circulating endocannabinoids and related N-acylethanolamines. Single entity cannabinoids, cannabis, and cannabis-based medicines in patients with FM show promise therapeutically but limitations in methodology and lack of longitudinal studies to assess efficacy and tolerability preclude the current recommendation for their use in patients with FM. Gaps in the literature that warrant further investigation are discussed, particularly the need for further development of animal models with high validity for the multifaceted nature of FM, balanced studies to eliminate sex-bias in preclinical research, and ultimately, better translation between preclinical and clinical research.