SAN FRANCISCO: Study Will Examine How Marijuana Affects AIDS Patients
"The first federally funded effort to study the effects of marijuana on AIDS patients has begun in San Francisco," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The study, to be administered at San Francisco General Hospital, relies on a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and will be conducted by the University of California-San Francisco and a consortium of AIDS caregivers. Physicians at San Francisco General are currently recruiting 63 HIV-positive patients who are on a regimen of protease inhibitors indinavir or nelfinavir. The participants will be divided into three groups; patients in one group will smoke three marijuana cigarettes per day, those in the second group will ingest a tablet of Marinol -- a drug made with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana -- and those in the third group will receive a placebo. The researchers will seek to learn "how marijuana smoking may influence the immune system and the levels of AIDS virus in the body," as well as whether pot is "safe for AIDS patients who are being treated with the new protease inhibitor drugs." The Chronicle reports that both THC and the new drugs are broken down in the liver. Dr. Donald Abrams, director of the study, said, "We know many AIDS patients use marijuana to relieve nausea and loss of appetite brought on by the disease and its treatments. But we don't know how THC interacts with HIV drug therapies" (Perlman, 5/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.