Cannabis Use Improves Retention and Virological Outcomes in Patients Treated for Hepatitis C
September 22, 2006
"Despite the widespread use of polypharmacy, the management of hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment-related side-effects is incomplete, and many patients turn to cannabis for symptom relief," the authors wrote. "Unfortunately, there are few data about cannabis use on treatment outcomes, leaving clinicians without the data needed to inform recommendations."
The researchers undertook the current study to define the impact of cannabis use on treatment for HCV infection. They conducted a prospective observational study of standard interferon and ribavirin treatment in 71 recovering substance users. Twenty-two (31 percent) of the subjects used cannabis; 49 (69 percent) did not.
Of the 71 subjects, 17 discontinued therapy early: one cannabis user (5 percent) and 16 nonusers (33 percent) (P=0.01). Thirty-seven patients (52 percent) were end-of-treatment responders: 14 cannabis users (64 percent) and 23 nonusers (47 percent) (P=0.21).
Of the 71 patients, 21 (30 percent) had a sustained virological response: 12 of the 22 cannabis users (54 percent) and nine of the 49 nonusers (18 percent) (P=0.009), corresponding to a post-treatment virological relapse rate of 14 percent in the cannabis users and 61 percent in the nonusers (P=0.009).
Forty-eight (68 percent) of the 71 were adherent to treatment: 19 (86 percent) of cannabis users and 29 (59 percent) of nonusers (P=0.03). Cannabis users were no more likely than nonusers to take at least 80 percent of the prescribed interferon or ribavirin. However, cannabis users were significantly more likely to remain on treatment for at least 80 percent of the projected treatment duration (95 percent vs. 67 percent, P=0.01)
"Our results suggest that modest cannabis use may offer symptomatic and virological benefit to some patients undergoing HCV treatment by helping them maintain adherence to the challenging medication regimen," the researchers concluded.
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology
10.2006; Vol. 18; No. 10: P. 1057-1063; Diana L. Sylvestre; Barry Clements; Yvonne Malibu
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.