The marijuana plant Cannabis sativa has been reported to produce beneficial effects for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, but this has not been investigated in controlled trials.
Dr Timna Naftali and colleagues performed a prospective trial to determine whether cannabis can induce remission in patients with Crohn's disease.
The research team studied 21 patients with Crohn's Disease Activity Index (CDAI) scores greater than 200 who did not respond to therapy with steroids, immunomodulators, or anti–tumor necrosis factor-α agents.
Patients were assigned randomly to groups given cannabis, twice daily, in the form of cigarettes containing 115 mg of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or placebo containing cannabis flowers from which the THC had been extracted.
Disease activity and laboratory tests were assessed during 8 weeks of treatment and 2 weeks thereafter.
The research team found that complete remission was achieved 45% of subjects in the cannabis group, and 10% in the placebo group.
A clinical response was observed in 90% of subjects in the cannabis group, and 40% in the placebo group.
The researchers observed that 3 patients in the cannabis group were weaned from steroid dependency.
The team noted that subjects receiving cannabis reported improved appetite and sleep, with no significant side effects.
Dr Naftali's team concludes, "Although the primary end point of the study was not achieved, a short course of THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 10 of 11 patients with active Crohn's disease, compared with placebo, without side effects."
"Further studies, with larger patient groups and a nonsmoking mode of intake, are warranted."