Recent developments in the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids.



To examine the recent evidence that marijuana and other cannabinoids have therapeutic potential.


Literature published since 1997 was searched using the following terms: cannabinoid, marijuana, THC, analgesia, cachexia, glaucoma, movement, multiple sclerosis, neurological, pain, Parkinson, trial, vomiting. Qualifying clinical studies were randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. Selected open-label studies and surveys are also discussed.


A total of 15 independent, qualifying clinical trials were identified, of which only three had more than 100 patients each. Two large trials found that cannabinoids were significantly better than placebo in managing spasticity in multiple sclerosis. Patients self-reported greater sense of motor improvement in multiple sclerosis than could be confirmed objectively. In smaller qualifying trials, cannabinoids produced significant objective improvement of tics in Tourette’s disease, and neuropathic pain. A new, non-psychotropic cannabinoid also has analgesic activity in neuropathic pain. No significant improvement was found in levodopa-induced dyskinesia in Parkinson’s Disease or post-operative pain. No difference from active placebo was found for management of cachexia in a large trial. Some immune system parameters changed in HIV-1 and multiple sclerosis patients treated with cannabinoids, but the clinical significance is unknown. Quality of life assessments were made in only three of 15 qualifying clinical trials.


Cannabinoids may be useful for conditions that currently lack effective treatment, such as spasticity, tics and neuropathic pain. New delivery systems for cannabinoids and cannabis-based medicinal extracts, as well as new cannabinoid derivatives expand the options for cannabinoid therapy. More well-controlled, large clinical tests are needed, especially with active placebo.”

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