Treatment with Marinol, a synthetic version of cannabinoid chemicals found in marijuana, can reduce the pain often experienced by people with multiple sclerosis (MS), new research suggests.
The findings, which appear in the British Medical Journal, are based on a study of 24 MS patients with pain who were treated with Marinol or inactive “placebo” for 3-week periods.
Dr. Flemming W. Bach and colleagues, from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, found that Marinol was significantly better than placebo at lowering pain intensity and increasing pain relief.
In terms of quality of life, Marinol appeared to offer a benefit over placebo in reducing bodily pain and improving mental health. No change in functional ability was seen with Marinol or placebo.
Marinol was more likely than placebo to produce side effects, particularly during the first week of treatment, the authors note. The most common side effects included dizziness, headache, and tiredness.
“The pain reduction seen in this study is comparable to the effect of other drugs” used in the treatment of related pain conditions, the authors state. Marinol “should be available for patients whose central pain is not sufficiently treated with alternative drugs such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, or opioids,” they add.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal, July 16th online issue, 2004.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.