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Pot Safe For HIV Patients, Study Says Patients Inhaling Cannabis Experienced No Detectable Change In Viral Load, Also Gained Weight, T-Cells

Posted by pozlife on August 13, 2008


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August 21, 2003 – San Francisco, CA, USA

San Francisco, CA: Short-term use of oral and inhaled marijuana does not elevate viral load in individuals with HIV infection who are receiving antiretroviral medications, according to the results of clinical trial data published this week in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The results of the trial suggest that the medicinal use of inhaled marijuana has “acceptable safety in a vulnerable immune-compromised patient population,” authors concluded.

Sixty-two HIV-infected patients on antiretroviral regimens participated in the 25-day double-blind, placebo controlled trail. Patients were randomized to three groups: 20 received smoked marijuana, 22 received oral THC, and 20 received an oral placebo.

Researchers found no detectable change in viral levels among patients in any of the three groups. (Rising HIV virus levels in the blood tend to indicate disease progression.) In addition, patients who smoked marijuana increased their CD 4 and CD 8 T lymphocyte cell counts by approximately 20 percent. T-cells are essential disease-fighting white blood cells that defend against infections. The HIV virus targets and destroys these cells.

Lead author Donald Abrams of the University of California at San Francisco called the latter results “intriguing,” stating, “At a minimum, it contradicts findings … suggesting that smoked marijuana suppresses the immune system.”

Authors additionally noted that volunteers who received either oral THC or inhaled marijuana experienced increased weight gain compared to placebo, though the weight gain was fat and not lean body mass.

“These findings suggest no major, short-term harmful effects and possibly some beneficial effects of cannabinoids in HIV-infected patients taking protease inhibitors,” editors of the Annals of Internal Medicine summarized.

Additional trials examining the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in HIV and other patient populations are ongoing at the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of the NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. Abstracts of the study, entitled “Short-Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection,” are available online at:


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