Marijuana Eases HIV-Related Nerve Pain

February 11, 2004

, Reuters Health

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Health) - For people with nerve damage that can result from HIV infection, smoking marijuana seems to relieve the pain they experience, according to the results of a small pilot study.

Diffuse nerve pain, or polyneuropathy, is a significant problem for many people with HIV infection. Pre-clinical research findings suggest that cannabis-like compounds may be effective for treating neuropathic pain, Dr.
Cheryl Jay of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues noted this week at the 11th Annual Retrovirus Conference.
In a trial, 16 HIV-infected subjects with neuropathy were given three marijuana cigarettes each day for seven days. The cigarettes were dispensed by the pharmacy at San Francisco General Hospital. All of the patients reported previous experience smoking marijuana but had not done so for 30 days prior to the trial.

Fourteen of the participants were men, and their average age was 43 years. They had had neuropathy for an average of 6 years.

Reductions in pain were assessed using a 0-to-100 visual scale. The aim was to achieve a 30 percent reduction in average daily pain, "which is a pretty typical standard used in pain studies, and is considered a clinically meaningful amount of pain relief," Jay told Reuters Health.

Average pain scores dropped from 47 at the start of the study to 20 at the end of the seven-day period. Twelve of the 16 participants reached the 30-percent goal in reduction of pain, Jay said.

A trial with participants randomized to receive marijuana or an inactive placebo has now been started, she added, and 20 out of 50 participants have been enrolled so far.

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