HIV patients: Marijuana eases foot pain

February 11, 2007

Paul Elias, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Smoking marijuana eased HIV -related pain in some patients in a small study that nevertheless represented one of the few rigorous attempts to find out if the drug has medicinal benefits.

The study, conducted at San Francisco General Hospital from 2003 to 2005 and published Monday in the journal Neurology, involved 50 patients suffering from HIV-related foot pain known as peripheral neuropathy. There are no drugs specifically approved to treat that kind of pain.

Half the patients received marijuana, while the other 25 received placebo cigarettes that lacked the drug‘s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol. Scientists said the study was the first one published that used a comparison group, which is generally considered the gold standard for scientific research.

"These results provide evidence that there is measurable medical benefit to smoking cannabis for these patients," said Dr. Donald Abrams, the University of California, San Francisco professor who led the study.

"People who smoke marijuana are subject to bacterial infections in the lungs," said David Murray, chief scientist at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Is this really what a physician who is treating someone with a compromised immune system wants to prescribe?"

Dr. Mark Ware, a researcher at McGill University in Montreal conducting similar tests, defended Abrams‘ study as sound and statistically reliable.

"This is a valid medicine and I want safe access to my medication," said Diana Dodson, a 50-year-old grandmother of five who participated in the test in 2004.

California and 10 other states have passed laws legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the federal government considers it a dangerous drug, like cocaine or heroin. The U.S. Supreme Court U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that state laws do not protect users from the federal ban.

The study cost about $1 million and was paid for by the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, which has sponsored several smoked marijuana tests.

On the Net:

Neurology journal: http://www.neurology.org

By PAUL ELIAS, AP Biotechnology Writer Mon Feb 12, 8:36 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO - Smoking marijuana eased HIV -related pain in some patients in a small study that nevertheless represented one of the few rigorous attempts to find out if the drug has medicinal benefits.

The study, conducted at San Francisco General Hospital from 2003 to 2005 and published Monday in the journal Neurology, involved 50 patients suffering from HIV-related foot pain known as peripheral neuropathy. There are no drugs specifically approved to treat that kind of pain.

Half the patients received marijuana, while the other 25 received placebo cigarettes that lacked the drug‘s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol. Scientists said the study was the first one published that used a comparison group, which is generally considered the gold standard for scientific research.

"These results provide evidence that there is measurable medical benefit to smoking cannabis for these patients," said Dr. Donald Abrams, the University of California, San Francisco professor who led the study.

"People who smoke marijuana are subject to bacterial infections in the lungs," said David Murray, chief scientist at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Is this really what a physician who is treating someone with a compromised immune system wants to prescribe?"

Dr. Mark Ware, a researcher at McGill University in Montreal conducting similar tests, defended Abrams‘ study as sound and statistically reliable.

"This is a valid medicine and I want safe access to my medication," said Diana Dodson, a 50-year-old grandmother of five who participated in the test in 2004.

California and 10 other states have passed laws legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the federal government considers it a dangerous drug, like cocaine or heroin. The U.S. Supreme Court U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that state laws do not protect users from the federal ban.

The study cost about $1 million and was paid for by the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, which has sponsored several smoked marijuana tests.



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