Marijuana Ingredient May Cut Fibromyalgia Pain

Preliminary Study Shows Less Pain, Better Quality of Life in Fibromyalgia Patients Taking Nabilone

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 19, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 19, 2008 -- Nabilone, a pain drug based on marijuana's active ingredient, may ease fibromyalgia pain.

So say Canadian researchers, based on a preliminary, short-term study.

The study included 40 fibromyalgia patients. First, they did three things:

  • Rate the intensity of their fibromyalgia pain. The rating scale ranged from 0 (no pain) to 10 (the worst pain imaginable). Their average rating was about 6.
  • Rate their quality of life. The rating scale ranged from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating worse quality of life. Their average rating was 66.
  • Get a check of their tender points -- parts of the body that are often sensitive in fibromyalgia patients.

The researchers then split the patients into two groups.

For a month, one group of patients took nabilone daily. The other group took a placebo pill. The patients didn't know which pill they were taking.

After a month of nabilone treatment, fibromyalgia pain was less intense and quality of life had improved. No such changes were seen with the placebo.

Nabilone treatment didn't affect the patients' number of tender points. And it didn't cure fibromyalgia pain -- when patients stopped taking nabilone, their fibromyalgia pain returned to its former intensity.

Nabilone was well tolerated, but side effects were more commonly reported in the nabilone group. Those side effects -- which included drowsiness, dry mouth, vertigo, and movement problems -- were "generally mild," write the researchers.

Longer studies are needed to track the long-term effects, note the University of Manitoba's Ryan Quinlan Skrabek, MD, and colleagues.

Their study appears in the February edition of The Journal of Pain.

(Is this something you'd consider taking for fibromyalgia pain? Why or why not? Share with others on our Fibromyalgia: Support Group message board.)