November 01, 2012
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Nabilone reduced pain associated with diabetic neuropathy

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Researchers from the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Canada found that a drug used there to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients also improved diabetes-related neuropathy.

The schedule 2 drug nabilone (Cesamet, Meda Pharms) is a synthetic cannabinoid that acts by mimicking the chemical compound of cannabis, decreasing nausea and vomiting.

“This is a good option to help treat nerve pain due to diabetes, with very few side effects,” Cory Toth, MD, FRCPC, assistant professor in the department of clinical neurosciences, and a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services, said in a press release.

Patients with diabetes reported neuropathy pain scores ≥4 (0-10 scale) and continued to take their regular pain medications, but were also administered a single-blinded nabilone for a 4-week period. After the treatment period, the researchers randomly assigned 26 patients to placebo (n=13) or nabilone 1mg (n=13) for another 5 weeks, in the double blind, single-center, flexible-dose study.

According to data, nabilone adjuvant therapy was more effective compared with placebo in pain improvements (P<.05). Researchers wrote that 11 of 13 patients experienced ≥30% decrease in pain from baseline to the endpoint (85%) in the nabilone group, compared with 5 of 13 patients in the placebo group (38%).

The researchers concluded that nabilone was also associated with improved sleep and quality of life in patients with diabetes-related neuropathy. They suggest that the drug be considered as a treatment for the disease.

“This study is a further demonstration of the potential medical benefits of cannabinoids in a difficult pain condition. Dr. Toth and his team have conducted a solid trial which, although small, validates our clinical experience. This study gives physicians support to consider further options in treating this devastating chronic pain disorders,” Mark A. Ware, MD, MSc, assistant professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University, Quebec, Canada, said in a press release.

Disclosure: Toth has received honoraria from Valeant Canada for medical education presentations. All other researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.