Pilot Study on THC Medical Benefits Shows Promise January 8, 2021
Research at PCOM
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.
This 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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About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Founded in 1899, 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 operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy,
physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences,
forensic medicine, mental health counseling, organizational development and leadership,
physician assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration.
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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