27 May 1998

Dope On Trial In San Francisco

The first clinical trial of the effects of marijuana in patients with HIV infection has kicked off in San Francisco. Named the "Short-Term Effects of Cannabinoids in HIV Patients", the two-year study will examine the influence of marijuana on the immune system and its interaction with antiviral drugs. A total of 63 patients are scheduled to be enrolled over the coming months.

"Our main goal is to find out what is safe for HIV/AIDS patients," says Donald Abrams, principal investigator of the study. "We know many 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 - the active ingredient in marijuana - interacts with HIV drug therapies."

Under the direction of physician-scientists from the University of California and the Community Consortium, a Bay Area association of health care providers, patients will be randomly assigned to one of three groups. Only one group will smoke marijuana. The others will receive either a tablet containing THC or a placebo. All patients will be monitored for 25 days in the General Clinical Research Centre at the San Francisco General Hospital.

"With this study, Bay Area AIDS specialists continue to be at the pioneering edge of clinical research in HIV," says Abrams. "The findings will help us provide better treatment to patients and to plan future clinical research protocols."