Pilot Study on THC Medical Benefits Shows Promise | PCOM Research
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Pilot Study on THC Medical Benefits Shows Promise 
Research at PCOM

January 8, 2021

For individuals with chronic pain, finding effective treatments to manage their condition can be an excruciating trial and error process. Preliminary results of an ongoing pilot clinical study on Dronabinol, an FDA-approved, prescription-only synthetic version of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, by researchers at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) show promise for a long-term treatment option for patients with chronic pain.

Headshot photograph of Frederick Goldstein, PhD, PCOM's lead researcher on THC and pain managementThis investigation examined effects of THC on individuals suffering from chronic nerve pain; subjects were evaluated over six weeks. Initial results, presented in September 2020 at the virtual national meeting of the American College of Clinical Pharmacology, showed a significant reduction in pain scores over typical analgesic treatments. This ongoing study is being conducted by PCOM researchers; it is led by Frederick J. Goldstein, PhD, FCP, with colleagues Katherine Galluzzi, DO, CMD, FACOFP Dist., second year medical student Madeleine Brown, MS, Jenayle Smith, LPN, and Joseph Lubeck, DO.

“I was a little bit nervous, initially, because I didn’t know what to expect,” said one female study participant, a Black woman who suffers from chronic temporomandibular pain. “[But] nothing else seems to be working, so why don’t I just give this a try.” Part of her initial hesitation stemmed from her knowledge of history. The unethical Tuskegee Syphilis Study, conducted by the U.S. government in the middle part of the 20th Century, subjected Black males to unnecessary pain and suffering; it has historically stigmatized participation in clinical research by communities of color. The results of her participation in the study, however, were transformative.

“The first time I took THC, it was the first night I had a good night’s sleep since 2008,” she said. “I was surprised. I was relieved, actually.”

Though this initial research is a limited pilot study, additional volunteers will be recruited to the study over the next year, according to Dr. Goldstein. The results from the first group of participants are encouraging and suggest that THC, and medical cannabis more generally, may prove to be an additional treatment option for patients suffering from chronic neuropathic pain.

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For the past 125 years, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM, a private, not-for-profit accredited institution of higher education, operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, and school psychology. The college also offers graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, physician assistant studies, and school psychology. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.

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