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Marijuana Aids Therapy - The Washington Post


The Washington Post - Wednesday, September 13, 2006; Page A02

Marijuana can improve the effectiveness of drug therapy for hepatitis C, a potentially deadly viral infection that affects more than 3 million Americans, a study has found. The work adds to a growing literature supporting the notion that in some circumstances pot can offer medical benefits.
Treatment for hepatitis C involves months of therapy with two powerful drugs, interferon and ribavirin, that have severe side effects, including extreme fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite and depression. Because of those side effects, many patients do not finish treatment and the virus ends up destroying their livers.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and at an Oakland substance abuse center tracked the progress of 71 hepatitis C patients taking the difficult therapy. Tests and interviews indicated that 22 smoked marijuana every day or two during the treatment period while 49 rarely or never did.
At the end of the six-month treatment, 19 (86 percent) of those who used marijuana had successfully completed the therapy -- meaning they took at least 80 percent of their doses over at least 80 percent of the period. Only 29 (59 percent) of the nonsmokers achieved that goal.
Similarly, 54 percent of the marijuana users achieved a "sustained virological response," the gold standard goal of therapy, meaning they had no sign of the virus in their bodies six months after the treatment was over. That compared with only 18 percent of those who did not smoke pot.
While it is possible that the marijuana had a specific, positive biomedical effect, it is more likely that it helped patients by reducing depression, improving appetite and offering psychological benefits that helped the patients tolerate the treatment's side effects, the team reports in the current issue of the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

4 Responses
Avatar universal
Several things unclear or don't make sense from the article that probably a good read of the actual study might clarify for those who want to pursue further.

First, it's difficult to tell from the article how marijuana affects SVR rates in the subgroups that completed treatment. But given the overall (54%) SVR rate of the marijuna smoking (MS) group, the marijuana didn't seem to hurt.

What is odd is very low completion and SVR rates of the non-marijuna smoking (NMS) group which was 29 and 18 per cent respectively. So...either this was a very unmotivated, unlucky group, or a lot more people in previous study populations smoke marijuana every day during treatment :) Something awry here.

That said, marijuana has been used for some time for HIV patients and others on chemo to help with side effects such as anorexia, nausea, wasting, etc.

In my case, I lost twenty pounds within the first few weeks of treatment, had a bad case of nausea, no appetitite, etc. Marijuana was the first recommendation by my liver specialist but because it doesn't agree with me, I had to pass.

-- Jim

Avatar universal
This appears to be the abstract from the study noted:


And some commentary:


Avatar universal
Abstract does note that the study was comprised of recovering substance users which may account for the higher drop out rates, at least in the non-marijuana smoking group.

But again, for those who do not want to wade all through this, the benefit of marijuana smoking during treatment does not appear to be because of any anti-virologic activity, but because it may help to increase compliance by helping with side effects such as weight loss and nausea. Marijuana use outside of treatment remains controversial as some studies suggest it can increase fibrosis.
Avatar universal
Also a case in Seattle a couple weeks ago. A Steely Dan cover band their lead singer was denided a liver transplant (U.W medical center) because he had marijuana in his system. Clamed he was using for medical reason. Medical Marijuana however not perscribed by Doctor.
No dugs no alchol.........no transplant
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