Canadian doctors using marijuana to help treat some HIV symptoms

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor special assignment

Thursday, November 29, 2012

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VANCOUVER, Canada — Marijuana has been found to be quite effective in the treatment of some symptoms exhibited by HIV infected persons, according to the doctors here in Vancouver, Canada who prescribe it for their patients.

Dr Silvia Guillemi, director of clinical education at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said marijuana controls nausea and helps patients with weight loss issues among other things. As such, Dr Guillemi said she often prescribes it for those patients who are desirous of using it.

"We have a liberal approach here but not all physicians are online with that," said Guillemi, who is in charge of the immuno deficiency clinic which treats some 1,200 HIV infected persons.

Although there are two marijuana pills on the market, Dr Guillemi said some persons opt for other forms of it as they prefer to smoke it or make a oil from it. She, however, pointed out that the effect is usually not the same for all patients.

"I have a 60 year-old patient who was diagnosed late with HIV and she also has colon cancer and so she had tried using marijuana to control the nausea but it just didn't work for her," Dr Guillemi told the Jamaica Observer, following a tour of the facility by a Jamaica delegation of journalists and policymakers who are here to participate in a knowledge exchange organised by Panos Caribbean in partnership with the Simon Fraser University and the Vancouver Initiative..

Dr Julio Mantaner, also from the Centre of Excellence, said the marijuana pills have also shown to be very effective in treating some of the symptoms exhibited by patients. "A lot of my patients use it," he said, adding that it may be best not to smoke it as it may alter some people's judgement.

A recent report published earlier this year by a group of scientist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, United States noted that drugs that target one of the two cellular receptors stimulated by the active ingredient in marijuana may prove to be effective at blocking a form of HIV that has been linked to faster disease progression during late stages of the infection.

The numerous effects of marijuana are said to be the result of chemical interactions between the drug's active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and two receptors on a variety of cells in the body: cannabinoid receptor 1 (CRI) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CR2).




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