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Trial Shows Synthetic Cannabinoid Effective on Nerve Pain

Neuron illustration (NIH)

(National Institute on Aging, NIH)

Researchers at University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada find the drug nabilone, prescribed to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients, helps treat diabetic neuropathy, or nerve pain. The findings of Cory Toth and colleagues at Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute are reported in the October issue of the journal Pain (paid subscription required).

Diabetic neuropathy results from damage to nerves due to decreased blood flow and high blood sugar levels caused by diabetes. About half of people with diabetes will develop nerve damage, with symptoms such as numbness, tingling, burning, and pain developing slowly over several years. Nerve injuries can affect the skull, spinal column, and major organs including the heart, bladder, stomach, and intestines.

Nabilone is a synthetic cannabinoid that acts similar to some of the compounds of cannabis, or marijuana. The drug is currently approved in the U.S. and Canada to treat nausea and vomiting in cancer patients taking chemotherapy. It is marketed in the U.S. under the brand name Cesamet by Meda Pharmaceuticals in Somerset, New Jersey.

In the study, the Calgary team enrolled 60 patients with diabetic neuropathy in a 12-week randomized, double-blind clinical trial testing nabilone against a placebo. Patients received nabilone or the placebo as a supplement to other pain medications in doses ranging from 1 to 4 milligrams a day.

The results show nabilone was effective in reducing diabetic neuropathy symptoms, including sleep disturbances, compared to the placebo. The results also show the drug was well tolerated, although the drug carries warnings about its potential to affect one’s mental state and become habit forming.

One patient taking part in the trial tells University of Calgary, “My pain was so severe that I could barely walk a block. After taking nabilone I can manage my pain and I can function day to day.”

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1 comment to Trial Shows Synthetic Cannabinoid Effective on Nerve Pain

  • You can try to fool people into only buying pharma produced goods, but at the end of the day a spade is not a shovel, and it never will be.

    Joel Dalais
    CLEAR Media Team
    CLEAR – Cannabis Law Reform