Medicinal marijuana effective for neuropathic pain in HIV

August 06, 2008

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the impact of smoked medical cannabis, or marijuana, on the neuropathic pain associated with HIV, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that reported pain relief was greater with cannabis than with a placebo. The study, sponsored by the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) based at UC San Diego, will be published on line, August 6 in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Led by Ronald J. Ellis, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine, the study looked at 28 HIV patients with neuropathic pain not adequately controlled by other pain-relievers, including opiates. They took part in the controlled study as outpatients at the UCSD Medical Center. The proportion of subjects achieving pain reduction of 30 percent or more was greater for those smoking cannabis than those smoking the placebo.

"Neuropathy is a chronic and significant problem in HIV patients as there are few existing treatments that offer adequate pain management to sufferers," Ellis said. "We found that smoked cannabis was generally well-tolerated and effective when added to the patient's existing pain medication, resulting in increased pain relief."

Each trial participant participated in five study phases over seven weeks. During two five-day phases, randomly selected participants smoked either cannabis or placebo cigarettes made from whole plant material with cannabinoids (the psychoactive compound found in marijuana) removed, both provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Outcome was tested by standardized tests measuring analgesia (lessened pain sensation), improvement in function and relief of pain-associated emotional distress.

Using verbal descriptors of pain magnitude, cannabis was associated with an average reduction of pain intensity from 'strong' 'to mild-to-moderate' in cannabis smokers, according to Ellis. Also, cannabis was associated with a sizeable (46% versus 18% for placebo) proportion of patients reporting clinically meaningful pain relief.

The study's findings are consistent with and extend other recent research supporting the short-term efficacy of cannabis for neuropathic pain, also sponsored by the CMCR.

"This study adds to a growing body of evidence that indicates that cannabis is effective, in the short-term at least, in the management of neuropathic pain," commented Igor Grant, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the CMCR.
-end-
The CMCR coordinates and supports cannabis research throughout the state of California. Research focuses on the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis for diseases and conditions as specified by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine Report (1999) and by the Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana, National Institutes of Health (1997).

Grant noted that this is the fourth CMCR sponsored study to provide convergent evidence that cannabis can help in relieving these types of pain. The previous studies were conducted with CMCR support by Donald I. Abrams, M.D., Professor of Clinical Medicine at UCSF, who reported efficacy in short-term treatment of HIV neuropathy (Neurology, 2007, 68:515-521); by Mark Wallace, M.D., Program Director for the UCSD Center for Pain Medicine, who found that normal volunteers subjected to chemically induced pain which mimics neuropathy also responded to medium doses of cannabis (Anesthesiology, 2007, 107(5):785-796); and by Barth Wilsey, M.D., Director of the UC Davis Analgesic Research Center, who also reported benefit from smoked cannabis in a group of patients with neuropathy of multiple origins (Journal of Pain, 2008 Jun;9(6):506-21).

Additional contributors to the study, all from the UCSD School of Medicine, include Will Toperoff, RN, FNP, Department of Neurosciences; Florin Vaida, Ph.D., Family and Preventive Medicine; Geoff van den Brande, RN, Medicine; J. Gonzales, Pharm.D., Pharmacy; Ben Gouaux, Heather Bentley, CCRA, and J. Hampton Atkinson, M.D., Psychiatry.

University of California - San Diego

Related HIV Articles from Brightsurf:

BEAT-HIV Delaney collaboratory issues recommendations measuring persistent HIV reservoirs
Spearheaded by Wistar scientists, top worldwide HIV researchers from the BEAT-HIV Martin Delaney Collaboratory to Cure HIV-1 Infection by Combination Immunotherapy (BEAT-HIV Collaboratory) compiled the first comprehensive set of recommendations on how to best measure the size of persistent HIV reservoirs during cure-directed clinical studies.

The Lancet HIV: Study suggests a second patient has been cured of HIV
A study of the second HIV patient to undergo successful stem cell transplantation from donors with a HIV-resistant gene, finds that there was no active viral infection in the patient's blood 30 months after they stopped anti-retroviral therapy, according to a case report published in The Lancet HIV journal and presented at CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections).

Children with HIV score below HIV-negative peers in cognitive, motor function tests
Children who acquired HIV in utero or during birth or breastfeeding did not perform as well as their peers who do not have HIV on tests measuring cognitive ability, motor function and attention, according to a report published online today in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Efforts to end the HIV epidemic must not ignore people already living with HIV
Efforts to prevent new HIV transmissions in the US must be accompanied by addressing HIV-associated comorbidities to improve the health of people already living with HIV, NIH experts assert in the third of a series of JAMA commentaries.

The Lancet HIV: Severe anti-LGBT legislations associated with lower testing and awareness of HIV in African countries
This first systematic review to investigate HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression in men who have sex with men in Africa finds that among the most recent studies (conducted after 2011) only half of men have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months.

The Lancet HIV: Tenfold increase in number of adolescents on HIV treatment in South Africa since 2010, but many still untreated
A new study of more than 700,000 one to 19-year olds being treated for HIV infection suggests a ten-fold increase in the number of adolescents aged 15 to 19 receiving HIV treatment in South Africa, according to results published in The Lancet HIV journal.

Starting HIV treatment in ERs may be key to ending HIV spread worldwide
In a follow-up study conducted in South Africa, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have evidence that hospital emergency departments (EDs) worldwide may be key strategic settings for curbing the spread of HIV infections in hard-to-reach populations if the EDs jump-start treatment and case management as well as diagnosis of the disease.

NIH HIV experts prioritize research to achieve sustained ART-free HIV remission
Achieving sustained remission of HIV without life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a top HIV research priority, according to a new commentary in JAMA by experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet HIV: PrEP implementation is associated with a rapid decline in new HIV infections
Study from Australia is the first to evaluate a population-level roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men.

Researchers date 'hibernating' HIV strains, advancing BC's leadership in HIV cure research
Researchers have developed a novel way for dating 'hibernating' HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research.

Read More: HIV News and HIV Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.