Study finds marijuana effective
in treating AIDS patients
Illustration courtesy aids-write.org
By Caitilin McAdoo, Bay City News Service
February 12, 2007
A study conducted at San Francisco General Hospital's Clinical
Research Center and published today in the journal Neurology found
that smoking marijuana effectively relieved the symptoms of HIV-associated
sensory neuropathy, an extremely painful peripheral nerve disorder.
An estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States suffer
from neuropathic pain and as many as 37 percent of people living
with HIV/AIDS use marijuana to treat neuropathy and other symptoms
associated with the disease, according to Americans for Safe Access,
a medical marijuana advocacy group.
The study was conducted as a randomized, placebo-controlled trial
at San Francisco General Hospital between May 2003 and May 2005.
Fifty patients who had suffered from chronic HIV-associated sensory
neuropathy for an average of six years completed the trial.
Half the patients were given three active marijuana cigarettes
per day and the other half were given three identical-looking
cigarettes that had the active ingredients in marijuana removed,
according to the study.
The first active marijuana cigarette smoked reduced chronic pain
by a median of 72 percent versus only 15 percent with the placebo
cigarette, the study reported.
Fifty-two percent of patients who smoked the active marijuana
cigarettes reported that their pain had been reduced by more than
34 percent while patients who smoked placebo cigarettes only reported
their pain reduced by 24 percent, the study found.
While the study stated that effectiveness of cannabis in treating
HIV-associated neuropathy were comparable to the effectiveness
of other types of drugs, marijuana was found to be better tolerated
in patients and have fewer adverse effects.
Some kinds of anticonvulsant drugs and anti-epileptic drugs have
been effective in treating the chronic pain associated with the
disorder, but those drugs tend to have negative interactions with
the antiretroviral medications prescribed to HIV/AIDS patients.
In response to the study, the National Association of People
With AIDS, along with a number of other advocacy groups, asked
for congressional hearings to address the medicinal uses of marijuana.
"This study validates the experience people living with
HIV/AIDS and their doctors have reported for years -- medical
cannabis provides much-needed relief from pain and suffering,"
National Association of People With AIDS Director Frank Oldham
The study was the first of its kind to be published in the United
States in nearly 20 years to show that cannabis can effectively
relieve many of the painful symptoms associated with AIDS, Americans
for Safe Access reported.
The study had been approved by the Institutional Review Board
at the University of California San Francisco, the Drug Enforcement
Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and the National
Institute on Drug Abuse and was monitored by an independent Date
Safety Monitoring Board established by the University of California
Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, the authors reported.
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