Pot-Based Drug Promising for Arthritis
Spray Shows Benefits for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Small British Study
Nov. 8, 2005 - A spray containing two chemicals extracted from marijuana
improved pain and sleep in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, British
The study, which appears in Rheumatology, was small, brief, and
likely the first of its kind, note the researchers. They write that the
"encouraging" results warrant larger, longer studies.
The spray, called Sativex, is made by GW Pharmaceuticals, the British drug
company that funded the study. It is sprayed into the mouth and the medication
is absorbed under the tongue or the inside part of the cheek.
One of the researchers is GW Pharmaceuticals' medical director. Two others
disclose having received honoraria from GW Pharmaceuticals.
The study included 58 RA patients. They had no history of psychiatric
disorders, substance misuse, epilepsy, or severe heart, kidney, or liver
First, patients rated their pain at rest, during movement, and first thing
in the morning. They also rated their quality of sleep.
Next, the patients were given one of two sprays to use every evening for
about a month. Sativex was one of those sprays. The other was an empty spray
Sativex was given to 31 patients. The other 27 patients got the placebo. No
one knew which patients had gotten Sativex.
Sativex contains THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
Those are key therapeutic compounds in cannabis that
write the researchers.
They included rheumatologist David R. Blake of the Royal National Hospital
for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, England.
Compared with the placebo group, patients taking Sativex had notable
improvements in pain (including pain during movement and pain at rest), sleep
quality, and RA disease activity, the researchers report.
Morning pain didn't change much but was "surprisingly low" to begin
with, write Blake and colleagues.
The sprays were only used in the evening to minimize any intoxication. The
most common side effects with Sativex were dizziness (eight patients, or 26% of
the Sativex group), dry mouth (four patients, or 13%), and lightheadedness
(three patients, or 10% of those taking Sativex).