Preliminary results presented at SLEEP 2017 and reported by Healio suggest that dronabinol, a synthetic cannabis, may help some patients with sleep apnea.

They randomly assigned 56 adults with BMI less than 45 kg/m², Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) score greater than 7 and polysomnograph-documented apnea–hypopnea index (AHI) between 15 and 50 to receive either placebo (n = 17), or 2.5 mg (n = 19) or 10 mg (n = 20) of dronabinol 1 hour before bedtime once a day for 6 weeks. Every 2 weeks, the researchers performed a repeat in-laboratory polysomnography and maintenance of wakefulness (MWT) testing. They also completed ESS and Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire for Medications during each visit.

Among all treatment groups, baseline AHI was 26, MWT latency was 19.9 min and BMI was 33.8 kg/m². There was a slight difference in ESS (P =.01) and age (P = .04) among treatment groups. The end of treatment changes in AHI were –13.2 (P = .001) for participants taking 10 mg of dronabinol and –9.7 (P = .02) for those taking 2.5 mg of dronabinol, compared with placebo. There was no significant change in ESS among participants receiving placebo or 2.5 mg of dronabinol; however, ESS decreased by 4 units for the 10 mg group. MWT latency or BMI did not significantly change in any treatment group. These results remained even after controlling for baseline ESS and age.

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