juana are not based on particular diseases but on symptomssuch as nausea, appetite loss, or chronic paineach of which can be caused by various diseases or even by treatments for diseases. This chapter is therefore organized by symptoms rather than by diseases. There are eight sections. The first section explains clinical trials, the following five deal with specific symptoms and conditions, and the last two summarize the medical benefits of marijuana and cannabinoids. The five sections on symptoms and conditions are as follows: pain, nausea and vomiting, wasting syndrome and appetite stimulation, neurological symptoms (including muscle spasticity), and glaucoma.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) study team received reports of more than 30 different medical uses of marijuana, more than could be carefully reviewed in a report of this length; even more uses are reported elsewhere.62,63 For most of the infrequently mentioned medical uses of marijuana there are only a few anecdotal reports. This report reviews only the most prominent symptoms that are reportedly relieved by marijuana. However, many of those diseases not reviewed here share common symptoms, such as pain, nausea and vomiting, and muscle spasms, which might be relieved by cannabinoid drugs.
Before evaluating individual clinical trials concerning the efficacy and safety of medical uses of marijuana and cannabinoids, it is useful to review the general qualities of clinical trials. Clinical trials involve groups of individuals in which different treatments are compared among different groups. Such trials measure the efficacy of a medication and are required by the FDA for approval of any new drug or new use of a drug (discussed further in chapter 5).
The degree of assurance that the outcome of a clinical trial is due to the treatment being tested depends on how well the trial is designed. Three important factors to consider in evaluating the design of a clinical trial are sample selection, subjective effects, and effects that are independent of the treatment. For sample selection it is important to ensure that patients are allocated to different treatment groups in such a way that the groups are not biased toward a particular treatment outcome. For example, the health status, gender, and ages of different treatment groups should be equivalent. Subjective effects must be controlled because they influence experimental results in two important ways. First, a patient's expectation that a treatment will be effective can influence the degree of its effect (for example, in the control of nausea). Second, the investigator's expectation can influence his or her interpretation of the treatment effect (for example, when assessing the level of pain experienced by a patient).