An Overview Of Marinol, a Synthetic THC Medication

Marinol is a prescription medication available in the US. The generic name for Marinol is dronabinol, which is a synthetic compound identical to natural THC. The difference between THC and dronabinol is the origin is that THC occurs in plants, and dronabinol’s origin takes place in a laboratory or chemical factory.

In order to avoid illegalities in the US, Unimed Pharmaceuticals manufactures Marinol from pure dronabinol. Natual medical marijuana is federally illegal, so developing that into a medication would be impossible and then have it scheduled by the DEA because of that. In the 1980′s, Unimed went through the FDA 3 phases of new drug approval. Normally, this takes 5 years on average, but for Unimed it only took 2 years.

Marinol was approved by the FDA initially for control of nausea and vomiting with cancer chemotherapy back in 1985. Eventually Unimed received additional approval in 1992 for control of AIDS wasting. This additional approval took two small studies, 3 years, and $5 million. A huge bargain in the world of additional applications.

Dronabinol is a difficult medication to reach the bloodstream. It does not easily dissolve in water, so a lot of it doesn’t get absorbed. The liver actually thinks dronabinol is a contaminant and takes some out of the bloodstream. The end result is only 10-20 percent actually reaches cannabinoid receptors.

Marinol takes about 2 to 4 hours to take effect. Smoked arizona medical marijuana takes effect within minutes. Side effects of dronabinol include anxiety, confusion, sleepiness, dizziness, and mood changes. Most patients have these effects, and most are also able to continue treatment.

The National Cancer Institute funded a lot of the studies back in the 1970′s on marijuana which contributed immensely to Unimed’s FDA approval. Initially Marinol was classified by the DEA as a schedule II medication. Unimed then was able to get the DEA to reschedule Marinol to Schedule III in 1999. This did two things. First it made research easier to accomplish, and second it made it easier for physicians to prescribe (less paperwork).

The cost of Marinol is about $200 per month for the treatment of AIDS wasting. That is what 80% of prescriptions are given out for and the rest is for prevention of nausea from cancer chemo. Whether or not Marinol is cheaper than natural marijuana for treating these conditions is up for debate. Natural marijuana is able to treat multiple symptoms and side effects in HIV patients, so it may prevent the need for a secondary medication along with Marinol. I have blogged about this in other posts, and this is one of the main reasons natural marijuana has the edge up on Marinol is that it can control anxiety, vomiting nausea, appetite, and more with one medication. Marinol is one compound of THC, natural medical marijuana arizona has many compounds.

David L. Greene, MD is CEO of Preferred Pain Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached at

He is co-owner of Medical Marijuana AZ Certifications, which assists patients with debilitating medical conditions to obtain an Arizona Medical Marijuana card. The number Toll Free is (855) AZ-IDCARD

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