Objective: To examine the effect of dronabinol (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) on appetite and nutritional status in patients with symptomatic HIV infection and weight loss.
Design: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial with two five-week treatment periods separated by a two-week washout period. Patients received dronabinol 5 mg twice daily before meals or placebo.
Setting: A university-based HIV/AIDS clinic and a large infectious disease private practice largely devoted to care of patients with HIV.
Participants: Twelve HIV-infected patients who had had at least a 2.25-kg weight loss participated in the study. Five patients completed the protocol, and seven withdrew (two because of drug intolerance, two because of disease progression, two because of noncompliance, and one because of experimental antiretroviral therapy).
Main outcome measures: Main outcome measures included caloric intake, weight, percent body fat, serum prealbumin, and symptom distress.
Results: During dronabinol treatment, subjects experienced increased percent body fat (one percent, p = 0.04); decreased symptom distress (p = 0.04); and trends toward weight gain (0.5 kg, p = 0.13), increased prealbumin (29.0 mg/L, p = 0.11), and improved appetite score (p = 0.14).
Conclusions: In a selected group of HIV-infected patients with weight loss, short-term treatment with dronabinol may result in improvement in nutritional status and symptom distress.