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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 said.

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.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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