Study: Marijuana Smoking Not Linked With Liver Disease Progression In Hep C Patients

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 18, 2013

    Marijuana smoking is not associated with the promotion of liver disease in subjects coinfected with both hepatitis C and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), according to data published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

    Investigators at McGill University in Montreal and the University of Toronto assessed the impact of marijuana smoking on liver disease progression longitudinally in a cohort of nearly 700 subjects with HIV and the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Study participants at baseline reported having previously used cannabis, on average, some seven times per week, with 40 percent of subjects acknowledging having consumed cannabis daily. Participants were monitored over a median period of 32 months.

    Investigators reported, “In this prospective analysis we found no evidence for an association between marijuana smoking and significant liver fibrosis progression in HIV/HCV coinfection.” Authors speculated that previously reported positive associations between cannabis smoking and liver disease progression were likely the result of “reverse causation due to self-medication.”

    Researchers concluded: “[I]n this first prospective evaluation of liver disease progression among HIV-HCV infected persons, we could not demonstrate any important effect of marijuana on liver disease outcomes. A causal association is unlikely: hazard ratios were weak and … there was no dose-response relationship. It is likely that previous studies have been biased by reverse causality as patients use more marijuana to relieve symptoms as liver disease progresses.”

    Subjects diagnosed with HIV and/or hepatitis C frequently report using cannabis to treat disease symptoms as well as the plethora of adverse side effects, such as nausea and appetite loss, associated with conventional drug therapies.

    Full text of the study, “Marijuana Smoking Does Not Accelerate Progression of Liver Disease in HIV–Hepatitis C Coinfection: A Longitudinal Cohort Analysis,” appears online in Clinical Infectious Diseases. The study abstract appears online here.

    23 responses to “Study: Marijuana Smoking Not Linked With Liver Disease Progression In Hep C Patients”

    1. Patricia says:

      I was diagnosed with Hep C in 1996 due to a blood transfusion in 1987. I did the peg-interferon treatment for 6 wks and could not tolerate the side effects. I stopped the treatments and began smoking marijuana and changed my diet to vegetarian. (My dr said without the treatment I would be dead in 3 yrs. It’s been 15 yrs and I’m perfectly fine and my liver is healing itself with marijuana use.) I was arrested and convicted in 1998 for possession and I will be labeled a felon for the rest of my life. This has affected my life dramatically. I can not pass a drug required test for employment and being a felon is like a double barrel shotgun. Just because I needed blood and the donor was infected.

    2. Ken says:

      diagnosed with HEP-C over 10 years ago, took Inter- Feron, been in remission 8 years now, got busted in 95*, stopped smoking for 10 years
      started agin it really helped, but yes I’m a FELON, that’s why I always
      worked for my self,now moving to a state where I’m not a criminal!

    3. Miles says:

      @Patricia – It is because of stories like yours that I advocate for legalization! It makes absolutely no sense to make criminals out of people who choose to use a substance that is safer than the drugs the big drug companies produce and subsequently get the Govts approval to sell; in spite of the fact that most of them have very dangerous side effects.

      If our civilization survives long enough, I believe historians will look at marijuana prohibition as being laughably stupid.

    4. CR says:


      I think about that everytime I view this website.

    5. john holman says:

      Paul- why can’t someone like this sue the Fed for denying them curative medicine? Seems simple to me, is it because its schedule 1?

      [Editor’s note: Numerous medical cannabis patients, including groups trying to get certified as a class action lawsuit, have tried and failed to date to survive a summary judgement motion by the government attorneys. More patients will sue in the future and hopefully one or more will win at trial and survive appellate review.]

    6. Billy says:

      polio,arthritis,depression,anxiety.I cant take anything for these illnesses due to my liver

    7. Danny K says:

      The benefits of marijuana have long been known but this modern society we live in so many are much like sheep and will believe the person who shouts the loudest and then do as there told as a long time user of the weed i will keep fighting its prohibition anyway i can

    8. john holman says:

      Well isn’t that a crock. So essentially the gov won’t allow it to be heard in court. Do they actually own the courts? Or do the people own the courts? How can the courts serve as a check on the gov if the gov controls what is heard? We live in a democracy on a conditional basis? I dont like it anymore than I like the random policy I’m under violating my 4th ammend rights, I guess I give them up when I partake though.

    9. Daniel says:

      Hopefully more states will follow in the footsteps of DC and California, and etc.. and legalize consumption. It’s a shame that some sick people are denied access to medicine based on misconceptions.

    10. jC says:

      I feel your pain Paticia and Ken, I too have hep-c and went through the pain of interferon and ribovibri treatment more than ten years ago. I am a genotype 1, which does not respond well to that treatment, and Cannabis did help me weather the chemical storm. So sad we still live in such a society that even someone sick cannot have safe access to a substance that should be legal recreationally. Thanks to NORML and others we are making progress, but how painfully slow. Thanks all.