From the Journals

Don’t use cannabis to treat OSA, AASM recommends



The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) opposes the use of medical cannabis and its synthetic extracts for treating obstructive sleep apnea, according to a position statement published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine’s April issue.

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In the statement, the professional society recommends that state legislators, regulators, and health departments exclude obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as an indication for medical cannabis programs.

The “unreliable delivery methods and insufficient evidence of treatment effectiveness, tolerability, and safety” of medical cannabis and its synthetic extracts are among the reasons the AASM gave for making its recommendations. “Further research is needed to better understand the mechanistic actions of medical cannabis and its synthetic extracts, the long-term role of these synthetic extracts on OSA treatment, and harms and benefits,” the AASM concluded in its statement, authored by Kannan Ramar, MD, and other members of a panel of experts on sleep medicine.

Dronabinol is the only cannabis product that has been tested on patients with OSA for the treatment of this disorder. While some synthetic cannabis products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for other medical indications, the synthetic-based cannabis product dronabinol has not received FDA approval for the treatment of OSA.

Researchers have examined dronabinol’s use for treating OSA in small pilot and proof-of-concept studies and most patients in these studies reported experiencing treatment-related side effects, such as somnolence, wrote Dr. Ramar, of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minn., and his colleagues.

These trials involved patients having taken dronabinol pills in strengths ranging from 2.5 mg to 10 mg. One such study (Front Psychiatry. 2013 Jan 22. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00001), authored by Bharati Prasad of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and colleagues, showed a significant improvement in apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 32%, after 17 patients used dronabinol for 3 weeks, when compared with baseline AHIs (–14.1; P = .007).

A placebo-controlled randomized study of 73 adults with moderate or severe OSA similarly found a 33% decline in AHI in patients following 6 weeks of treatment with 10-mg doses of dronabinol (Sleep. 2018 Jan 1. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsx184).

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