AIDS Home > What Is Dronabinol Used For?

The primary approved use of dronabinol is to stimulate the appetite in people with AIDS who are experiencing weight loss as a result of this condition. It is also used for relieving nausea and vomiting brought on by chemotherapy medications. This product is believed to work by binding to certain receptors in the central nervous system; however, its exact effects are unknown.

An Introduction to the Uses of Dronabinol

Dronabinol (Marinol®) is a prescription medication used for the following uses:
 
  • Appetite loss (known medically as anorexia) associated with weight loss in people with AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)
  • Nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy, when other treatments have not worked.
     

Using Dronabinol for AIDS-Related Anorexia

AIDS is a disease caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV weakens the body's immune system by killing cells that normally fight off infections. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. People with this condition have severely damaged immune systems, putting them at risk for opportunistic infections (diseases that would ordinarily not make a person sick).
 
People with AIDS also often suffer from severe anorexia, or an inability to eat (this is different from anorexia nervosa, the well-known eating disorder). This results in weight loss, further increasing the risk for opportunistic infections and death. Dronabinol is approved to increase appetite in people with AIDS with anorexia and weight loss.
 

Using Dronabinol for Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are among the most common side effects of cancer chemotherapy. Dronabinol has been shown to reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in people who did not respond to standard treatments.
 
The combination of dronabinol and prochlorperazine (Compazine®) has also been shown to reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting more than the use of prochlorperazine alone.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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