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Synthetic marijuana compound reduces agitation, improves appetite in Alzheimer's patients

Chicago, Ill. and Neptune, N.J. (August 20, 2003) Study results suggest dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC, the active ingredient in Cannabis sativa L (marijuana), may reduce agitation and lead to weight gain in patients with Alzheimer's disease, according to data presented today at the annual meeting of the International Psychogeriatric Association.

"Our research suggests dronabinol may reduce agitation and improve appetite in patients with Alzheimer's disease, when traditional therapies are not successful," said Joshua Shua-Haim, M.D., lead investigator in the study and medical director of the Meridian Institute for Aging, a continuum of senior health programs and services in Central New Jersey affiliated with Meridian Health System. "In the study, dronabinol appeared to be safe and effective for these patients. The results point to a promising direction for future research."

Dronabinol, marketed under the trade name Marinol, is synthetic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC). Delta-9-THC also is a naturally occurring component of Cannabis sativa L (marijuana). Dronabinol is the only cannabinoid approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is indicated for the treatment of anorexia in patients with HIV/AIDS and for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy.

An estimated four million Americans have Alzheimer's disease and the number will grow to 14 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer's Association. In addition to memory loss, patients often experience agitation, loss of body weight, depression and restlessness.

Agitation is the most frequently encountered type of behavioral disturbance associated with Alzheimer's disease and affects an estimated 75 percent of people with the disease. Weight loss, a common problem in patients with Alzheimer's disease, is a predictive factor of mortality. Weight loss may derive from the deterioration of patients' cognitive abiliti
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Contact: Michael Valentino
mvalentino@meridianhealth.com
732-751-7538
Meridian Health System
20-Aug-2003


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