Short-Term Marijuana Use Does Not Accelerate HIV Infection, Hinder Antiretroviral Treatment, Study Says
Short-term use of marijuana or cannabinoid capsules does not accelerate HIV infection by lowering CD4+T cell counts or increasing viral loads and does not hinder treatment with protease inhibitors, according to a study published in the Aug. 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Donald Abrams and colleagues from the University of California-San Francisco randomly assigned 62 HIV-positive individuals to use either marijuana cigarettes, cannabinoid capsules or sugar pills three times daily for 21 days. The participants -- all of whom had been on the same antiretroviral regimen, including the protease inhibitors indinavir or nelfinavir, for at least eight weeks prior to the to the study -- continued to take their antiretroviral drugs during the study. After 21 days, the participants who used marijuana or cannabinoid capsules did not experience a drop in CD4+ and CD8+ T cell counts. Compared with participants who used the placebo, participants who used marijuana and cannabinoid capsules had slightly elevated T cell counts. In addition, participants' marijuana and cannabinoid use was associated with a slight decrease in viral load, although the association was not statistically significant. The researchers conclude that using marijuana or cannabinoids for a short time to stimulate appetite or decrease nausea associated with antiretroviral treatment is "not unsafe" for HIV-positive individuals, according to Reuters Health. The researchers added that more studies examining marijuana's therapeutic potential are ongoing and will provide more information about the drug's safety over longer periods of exposure, according to Reuters Health (Reuters Health, 8/18).
Synthetic Cannabinoid Patch in Development
In related news, University of Kentucky researcher Audra Stinchcomb is currently working on developing a prescription patch that would deliver synthetic cannabinoids through the skin to help ease nausea and stimulate appetite in AIDS and cancer patients, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Stinchcomb three years ago received a $361,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to help fund development of the patch, and she has since applied for a patent for the patch technology. A cannabis-based prescription capsule -- known as Marinol or dronabinol -- was approved by the FDA in 1985 to treat nausea, vomiting and severe appetite loss from AIDS or chemotherapy and has been available in the United States for more than 15 years. However, David Ringer, scientific program director for ACS, said that the patch might be preferable for patients whose nausea is so severe that they "can't keep the capsules down." The patch is currently undergoing initial study. Human trials are set to follow, and the patch could be available in five years (Isaacs, Lexington Herald-Leader, 8/20).