Ask-the-expert: The promising potential of CBD in the management of chronic pain

By: DSM Pharma Solutions Editors

Hear from Mariana Coelho, Clinical Project Scientist at DSM, on the impact of pain, the potential benefits of CBD and how emerging science is creating new possibilities for innovation in the pharmaceutical space.

  • CBD (cannabidiol) is emerging as a promising ingredient in the pharmaceutical industry – where it may have an important therapeutic role across many health areas, including chronic pain management, epilepsy, cancer and mood disorders.
  • Chronic pain affects approximately 10% of the world’s population1, and is notoriously difficult to treat because it is unique to each person experiencing it. It also lowers quality of life by impacting sleep and mood, and can even lead to depression. For these reasons, there is a high demand for novel solutions, like CBD-based pharmaceuticals, to manage chronic pain.
  • Read on to discover more about the potential of CBD in the field of pharmacological pain management and how further research in this area could benefit millions of patients worldwide.

Why is there an increasing focus on CBD in the pharma industry?

The CBD (cannabidiol)-based drug market is growing rapidly, powered by increasing scientific research indicating the therapeutic potential of the ingredient. In fact, there are currently 160+ active clinical trials exploring the role of CBD in a wide variety of health areas, including CNS (central nervous system) diseases, pain disorders, cancer, and more.2

This new scientific interest in the medical use of CBD follows the recent discovery of the endocannabinoid system in humans in the early 1990s. The endocannabinoid system is a widespread and complex cell-signaling system that is thought to regulate multiple physiological functions, including cognition, sleep, mood, inflammation and pain perception. It is theorized that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system via modulation of its CB1 and CB2 receptors, thereby exerting its (many) potential effects in the body. Thus, while the existence of CBD has been known for decades, these recent developments mean that CBD is now recognized as a promising new therapeutic ingredient across the pharmaceutical industry.

The rising relevance of chronic pain

Chronic pain affects a large and growing number of patients worldwide and is a primary reason for seeking medical intervention. Globally, one in 10 people develop chronic pain every year, and its prevalence is as high as 20-25% in some countries and regions.1 Aside from experiencing the pain itself, patients with chronic pain often suffer severe negative effects on their mood, sleep and physical and mental function too. When managed inadequately, it can have a devastating impact on a patient’s quality of life.

Chronic pain is challenging to treat due to the complexity of its multiple potential underlying causes. It is also individual to each person experiencing it, further complicating treatment. Opioids are commonly prescribed to manage pain. They are considered generally safe when used for a short period of time – to treat acute pain, for instance. However, individuals requiring long-term pain management can be at risk of developing a dependency on opioids.

Given the ongoing challenges of pain management, coupled with the potential negative consequences of long-term opioid use, doctors and their patients are increasingly searching for novel solutions that will effectively and safely alleviate the symptoms of pain.

The promising role of CBD for pain management

CBD is a relatively safe ingredient, with non-psychoactive properties and low potential for  abuse, making it an attractive candidate for pain relief and a potential alternative to opioid-based pharmaceuticals. The ingredient is already popular in the nutraceutical space, with 60% of CBD consumers using it to manage pain.3 However, its relevance in the pharmaceutical market is growing too. There are a number of ongoing studies examining the effects of CBD on a variety of pain-related indications, such as cancer-related pain, musculoskeletal pain and fibromyalgia, which will further clarify the potential of CBD in managing these conditions.

Our understanding of the role of CBD continues to evolve, and more scientific research is needed to investigate and confirm its mechanism of action and effectiveness as a pharmaceutical for pain management. However, it is possible that CBD may help to unlock and expand treatment possibilities for patients in the field of chronic pain.

Innovating with confidence

CBD is full of promise in the pharmaceutical market, and there are many opportunities for novel CBD-based developments. But to realize the full potential of CBD and enter the market with confidence, it’s important to collaborate with a trusted partner in the field.

DSM has created a platform to help its customers realize the full therapeutic potential of CBD-based pharmaceuticals. Together with pioneer in the CBD API market, Brains Bioceutical, it can partner to develop therapies that will safely and efficiently improve people’s lives. DSM has more than 70 years of experience in producing and securing the supply of APIs. This, combined with its unique innovation expertise and unparalleled ability to manage the market entry registration process, makes us an ideal partner for the development of purpose-led CBD-based pharmaceuticals.

Published on

03 November 2021


  • Article


4 min read

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  1. Jackson et al. The global burden of chronic pain. ASA, vol. 78, pg. 24-27, 2014.
  2. as of April 2021.
  3. NBJ CBD report, 2019.