HIV/AIDS Patients Will Test Benefits in First Canadian Trial

St. Michael's Hospital is leading the first Canadian study to probe the
possible benefits of medicinal marijuana.

The results of the pilot study, funded by Health Canada, are expected to
form the basis for a larger, multi-centre trial next year.

The study will test the safety and efficacy of smoked marijuana on appetite
stimulation, pain, nausea, mood and cognitive function, said lead
investigator Dr. Kevin Gough, medical director of the HIV program at St.
Mike's.

"There's been a lot of controversy and debate around the potential role of
smoked cannabis in the treatment of medical illness. There's a lot of
speculation and anecdotal data and it's time to collect some good
scientific data to answer this question."

The study will involve 32 HIV/AIDS patients who will smoke various doses of
pot for eight weeks.

Patients will be allowed to smoke as much marijuana as they need to help
their symptoms, and they will be expected to record the effect it had on
them. At certain times, patients will also get a placebo to determine if
they can tell if they're using an active drug or not.

Patients will be recruited from Toronto HIV/AIDS clinics, agencies and
referring physicians.

The marijuana is being supplied by the U.S. National Institute of Drug
Abuse, the only supplier in North America of research-grade cannabis, grown
under controlled conditions to contain measurable amounts of
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Gough said.

THC is the component of cannabis known to cause the "high" that people
experience.

Results of the pilot study are expected next year, and may also benefit
patients suffering from other chronic illnesses, such as cancer or multiple
sclerosis, said Gough.

Ottawa has flip-flopped on the issue of providing medicinal marijuana to
people with chronic illness. Last year, former health minister Allan Rock
promised cannabis would be available for medical use.

The current minister, Anne McLellan, said she's uncomfortable endorsing
medical marijuana without knowing all the benefits or side effects.

Also, because of the federal government's long-standing campaign against
tobacco smoking, McLellan said she sees some contradiction in a decision to
let ill patients smoke marijuana on a compassionate basis.

Pubdate: Thu, 10 Oct 2002
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The Toronto Star
Contact: lettertoed@thestar.com
Website: http://www.thestar.com/