Abstract

A 45-year old Jamaican man with sickle cell disease came to our clinic complaining of chronic left ankle ulcer for one year. He stated that when he was a young boy he had had several hospital admissions for sickle cell crisis, usually precipitated by physical activity or infection, once or twice per month. We were surprised to find out that he had never had a crisis since the age of fifteen. We doubted his diagnosis yet his hemoglobin electrophoresis revealed HbS was 94.7%, HbF was 0.6% and HbA2 was 4.7%. He denied taking any medication. However, he admitted smoking 4 to 5 cigarettes of marijuana a day for the past 30 years. Cannabis has been used as a medicine even before the Christian era in Asia, first in China then mainly in India. Its use was later spread to the West.

The general indications for marijuana were reported as severe nausea and vomiting, weight loss associated with debilitating illnesses, spasticity, pain syndrome, and glaucoma.

Numerous Phase I–III studies in 2000 subjects with exposure of Sativex by GW Pharmaceuticals from United Kingdom demonstrated that the patients attained good sleep quality, which may improve patients’ quality of life in disabling chronic pain syndromes.

We reviewed the literature on any report that cannabinoids could change the severity of sickle cell disease. We found the study from West Indies, which investigated the perception that marijuana use ameliorated the complications of sickle cell disease, in year 2000 and 2004. The study concluded that marijuana smoking is common in adults with sickle cell disease but its usage is unrelated to clinical severity of the disease.

We also found a report, from Central Middlesex Hospital in London, United Kingdom, which observed 86 young adults with HbSS, HbSC and HbSbetathalassemia disease, median age being 30 years.

Results of this study showed that 31 (36%) had used cannabis in the previous 12 months to relieve the symptoms associated with sickle cell disease. Symptoms related to sedation and mood effects were reported in 77% of patients. The main reasons for use of cannabis were to reduce pain in 52% and to induce relaxation or relieve anxiety and depression in 39%. 5(5) We wondered if any physicians had observed similar effects of marijuana in sickle cell disease patients in their practice. Could ‘Marijuana Use has beneficial effect on Sickle Cell Disease’ be an interesting topic for a broader clinical trial or a retrospective analysis?

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

References

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