The effects of cannabinoids on the pharmacokinetics of indinavir and nelfinavir

AIDS. 2002 Mar 8;16(4):543-50. doi: 10.1097/00002030-200203080-00005.


Background and objectives: The use of cannabinoids for appetite stimulation and the management of wasting and antiretroviral side-effects has become a common practice in the care of HIV-infected individuals. We present pharmacokinetic data from a randomized placebo-controlled study designed to evaluate the metabolic effects of smoked marijuana and dronabinol in HIV-infected patients receiving indinavir (IDV) or nelfinavir (NFV).

Methods: Subjects on stable regimens containing IDV 800 mg every 8 h (n = 28) or NFV 750 mg three time a day (n = 34) were randomized to one of three treatment arms: 3.95% THC marijuana cigarettes, dronabinol 2.5 mg capsules or placebo capsules administered three times daily. Serial blood sampling was performed at baseline and on day 14 of treatment. The changes in NFV and IDV pharmacokinetics were measured as the median percentage change from baseline.

Results: At day 14, the 8-h area under the curve (AUC(8)) changed by -10.2% (P = 0.15), maximum concentration (C(max)) by -17.4% (P = 0.46), and minimum concentration (C(min)) by -12.2% (P = 0.28) for patients in the NFV marijuana arm (n = 11). Similar decreases had occurred by day 14 among patients in the IDV marijuana arm (n = 9): AUC8 had changed by -14.5% (P = 0.074), C(max) by -14.1% (P = 0.039), and C(min) by -33.7% (P = 0.65).

Conclusion: Despite a statistically significant decrease in C(max) of IDV in the marijuana arm, the magnitude of changes in IDV and NFV pharmacokinetic parameters in the marijuana arm are likely to have no short-term clinical consequence. The use of marijuana or dronabinol is unlikely to impact antiretroviral efficacy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appetite Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Appetite Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Dronabinol / administration & dosage
  • Dronabinol / pharmacokinetics
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics*
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Indinavir / pharmacokinetics*
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking
  • Middle Aged
  • Nelfinavir / pharmacokinetics*


  • Appetite Stimulants
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors
  • Indinavir
  • Dronabinol
  • Nelfinavir