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Marijuana Cannabis Eases Pain In HIV-Infected People Study Revels

WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Smoking marijuana eases a type of chronic foot pain in people with the AIDS
 virus, according to a study published on Monday that the researchers touted as demonstrating marijuana's
 medicinal benefits.

            Return Back To Main Medical Reports Page

              12 Feb 2007 21:00:21 GMT
                  Source: Reuters
                  By Will Dunham

But the White House drug policy office said the research was flawed and
offered only "false hope."

The study, appearing in the journal Neurology, focused on sensory
neuropathy -- a kind of severe nerve pain usually felt as aching,
painful numbness and burning in the feet -- associated with human
immunodeficiency virus infection.

HIV-infected people who smoked marijuana reported a 34-percent
reduction in daily pain from this condition, compared to a 17-percent decline
among those who smoked placebos.

Fifty HIV-infected adults, mostly men, who had this pain but otherwise
were in stable health took part from 2003 to 2005. All were previous
marijuana smokers but not considered drug abusers. They were told to
stop using it prior to the study.

Half of them smoked marijuana cigarettes three times a day for five
days. The other half smoked placebo cigarettes that were identical other than
having had the cannabinoids -- the primary active components of the
plant extracted.

Half the marijuana smokers said their pain level had declined by more
than 30 percent, while a quarter of the placebo group reported similar pain
reduction. The volunteers had no serious side effects.

Sensory neuropathy affects about a third of HIV-infected people, making
walking or standing hard.


Lead researcher Dr. Donald Abrams, one of the first doctors to study
AIDS at the start of the epidemic, said the research demonstrated in a
carefully conducted clinical trial that smoking marijuana provides some
benefit to these patients.

"I think that there are people out there who say there is no evidence
that marijuana is medicine, that this is all just a smoke screen," Abrams,
of San Francisco General Hospital and University of California San
Francisco, said in an interview.

Abrams said he hoped his findings would provide evidence "to help
answer this question in an intelligent fashion."

There is a fierce debate over whether marijuana, an illegal drug under
U.S. federal law, should be legal for medical uses like treating pain
or nausea in AIDS or cancer patients.

David Murray, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's
chief scientist, said the suffering of AIDS patients is an issue of
great concern.

"Unfortunately, this particular study is not terribly convincing,"
Murray said, citing what he saw as methodological problems.

"Unfortunately, it will lead many people into a false hope that street
marijuana is somehow going to be the thing I can use that will make me
feel better and won't jeopardize my health. Now that is a fraud and a
dangerous one," he told Reuters.

The study found the relief from smoking marijuana was comparable to
that  provided by pills now used to treat this nerve pain. But some patients
are not helped by these anti-seizure medications, and others cannot
tolerate them, drawing interest in marijuana as an alternative.

Californian Diana Dodson, a 50-year-old grandmother who got AIDS via a
contaminated blood product, said some pain medications leave her in a

"I just want people to understand that this is about sick people who
deserve a quality of life. If it's something that can help us, we
should have safe access to it," Dodson, one of the patients in the study, said
of marijuana.



          Return Back To Main Medical Reports Page