With Some Restrictions Lifted On Marijuana Research, More HIV Data Could Emerge

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced this week that it will lift restrictions on cannabis research as soon as August 11, 2016. This policy change will open the door for broader study of the drug, increasing the availability of marijuana to researchers, including those looking at its use in people with HIV. The administration did not, however, change marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I “dangerous” drug.

Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of medical marijuana for conditions ranging from Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, to Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, despite of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s position that the drug is not a safe and effective medical treatment.

The new policy could lead to increased support for medical marijuana and perhaps to a reclassification of the drug in the future.

“HIV specialists have been hearing about the medical use of marijuana even longer than we’ve had effective antiretroviral therapy,” Paul E. Sax, M.D. noted earlier this year in Journal Watch. “Initially touted as an appetite stimulant for HIV-related anorexia and weight loss, and as palliative therapy to ease the pain of death and dying, it gained further use in the mid-1990s when early HIV-related combination regimens caused so much nausea,” he recalled.

Sax noted that Donald Abrams, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco had overcome obstacles to marijuana research to find that five days of smoking the herb was superior to placebo in 50 people with HIV-related peripheral neuropathy. In a more recent assessment, marijuana use was also tied to lower insulin resistance risk in people coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C in France. And an animal study several years ago made the tantalizing observation that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana, seemed to decrease cellular damage in gut tissue, which could lead to approaches that limit the spread of HIV in the body.

Medical uses of marijuana, along with reclassification and legalization of the drug, remain controversial. According to some experts, this policy change is unnecessary, and according to others, it does not go far enough. Earlier in 2016, the DEA reported that cannabis would likely be reclassified to a Schedule II drug – drugs with a high potential for abuse that may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence – but that measure has not yet occurred. Under the new policy, researchers will need approval from the FDA and DEA to conduct medical marijuana studies.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: With Some Restrictions Lifted On Marijuana Research, More HIV Data Could Emerge
Author: Diane Domina
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