Therapeutic potential of cannabinoid-based drugs

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007:601:395-413. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-72005-0_43.


Cannabinoid-based drugs modeled on cannabinoids originally isolated from marijuana are now known to significantly impact the functioning of the endocannabinoid system of mammals. This system operates not only in the brain but also in organs and tissues in the periphery including the immune system. Natural and synthetic cannabinoids are tricyclic terpenes, whereas the endogenous physiological ligands are eicosanoids. Several receptors for these compounds have been extensively described, CB1 and CB2, and are G protein-coupled receptors; however, cannabinoid-based drugs are also demonstrated to function independently of these receptors. Cannabinoids regulate many physiological functions and their impact on immunity is generally antiinflammatory as powerful modulators of the cytokine cascade. This anti-inflammatory potency has led to the testing of these drugs in chronic inflammatory laboratory paradigms and even in some human diseases. Psychoactive and nonpsychoactive cannabinoid-based drugs such as Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, HU-211, and ajulemic acid have been tested and found moderately effective in clinical trials of multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, arthritis, and neuropathic pain. Furthermore, although clinical trials are not yet reported, preclinical data with cannabinoid-based drugs suggest efficacy in other inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, and osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy
  • Cannabinoids / chemistry
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical / methods
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Design*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / drug therapy
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cannabinoids
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid