Nabilone and Medical Marijuana in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia, the Manitoba Study

Nabilone and Medical Marijuana in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia, the Manitoba Study

Dr. Kennedy

Fibromyalgia is a not uncommon “syndrome” which is said by mainstream medicine to have no cure. However when you hear mainstream medicine call something a “syndrome,” you know right away they have no clues about cause. The word “syndrome” has long been popular in medicine and, more recently, outside medicine (as in the “China syndrome”). The word comes from the Greek “syn-” meaning together + “dramein” meaning to run = to run together, or go together. In other words, doctors see two or more symptoms consistently present together and say to themselves “We have no idea, so let’s impress the patients and call it a syndrome.” And so it is with fibromyalgia.

The proper understanding of fibromyalgia leads to proper treatment and cure, however that is not the point of this article. (For that, go to: where you will learn the relationship between fibromyalgia and digestion).

For people who need immediate pain relieve, nothing seems to work as well as cannabis. An estimated 12 million Americans have fibromyalgia, which is characterized by widespread muscle and joint pain and myriad other symptoms. The condition is far more prevalent in women and the incidence increases with age, reaching 7 percent among women 65 years and older.

The University of Manitoba Study

Nabilone is a synthetic cannabinoid with therapeutic use as an antiemetic and as an adjunct analgesic for neuropathic pain. Nabilone mimics the main ingredient of cannabis (THC). Chemically, nabilone is similar to the active ingredient found in naturally occurring Cannabis sativa.

Forty subjects were selected for a study conducted at the University of Manitoba Rehabilitation Hospital. They were divided into nabilone and placebo groups and were treated for four weeks. The authors noted this was the first randomized, controlled-access trial to evaluate nabilone for pain reduction and quality-of-life improvement in fibromyalgia patients. Nabilone is one of two oral marijuana-based compounds, known as cannabinoids, available in Canada and is approved for treatment of nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy.


Results of the Manitoba study showed the nabilone group had significant reductions in pain and anxiety, measured by comparisons with baseline scores on the visual analogue scale for pain, the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and the FIQ anxiety score. From the data, the study concluded nabilone has significant benefits for pain relief and functional improvement in fibromyalgia patients. Although the improvement was significant, none of the nabilone-treated subjects had complete relief of their fibromyalgia symptoms. That, of course, it to be expected as the causative digestive disorder is not corrected with cannabis. The drug was well tolerated by treated patients, which the authors characterized as reassuring since fibromyalgia patients are sensitive to most medications and have difficulty tolerating side effects. The downside, however, is cost. In Canada, nabilone would cost about $4,000 for a year’s supply which points out the usefulness of medical marijuana which is far less expensive.


The authors believe their findings warrant consideration of nabilone as an adjunct to current medical management of fibromyalgia. I believe marijuana should be made legal at both federal and state levels for medical use.


American Pain Society (2008, February 18). Marijuana-based Drug Reduces Fibromyalgia Pain, Study

Click here for more information about medical marijuana and its uses in medicine.

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