California’s First State-Sponsored Study Examining Therapeutic Benefit of Marijuana on HIV-Positive People Begins
A pilot study examining the effectiveness of medical marijuana as a means to relieve peripheral nerve pain associated with AIDS has received nearly $1 million in state funding and has enrolled its first participant, the Sacramento Bee reports. The study, led by Dr. Donald Abrams of the University of California-San Francisco and sponsored by the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, is the first study of medical marijuana to be paid for by the state. Abrams, who led a 1998 study that indicated that marijuana increased AIDS patients' appetites and helped them gain weight, was awarded $956,000 for a three-year study on marijuana as a means to control peripheral nerve pain that can be caused by HIV infection or antiretroviral drugs. Each patient -- who must be an "experienced marijuana smoke[r]," have an AIDS diagnosis and be experiencing nerve pain -- will spend nine days at San Francisco General Hospital, smoke one government-issued marijuana cigarette three times each day for seven of the nine days and keep pain diaries before, during and after the hospital stay. The first participant, who the Bee refers to only as "Robert," reported that his pain with two different painkillers was "five or higher" on a one-to-10 scale. However, during his nine-day stay at the hospital, he reported his pain at zero "for almost the entire time between [marijuana] doses." If the pilot study involving 16 people goes well, Abrams will begin enrolling up to 100 participants for the double-blind study, in which a control group of participants will be given marijuana cigarettes without THC, the active ingredient of the drug, without either the participants' or doctors' knowledge (Lau, Sacramento Bee, 4/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.