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Regular marijuana use increases risk of hepatitis C-related liver damage
Date:1/28/2008

Bethesda, MD (Jan. 28, 2008) Patients with chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection should not use marijuana (cannabis) daily, according to a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute. Researchers found that HCV patients who used cannabis daily were at significantly higher risk of moderate to severe liver fibrosis, or tissue scarring. Additionally, patients with moderate to heavy alcohol use combined with regular cannabis use experienced an even greater risk of liver fibrosis. The recommendation to avoid cannabis is especially important in patients who are coinfected with HCV/HIV since the progression of fibrosis is already greater in these patients.

Hepatitis C is a major public health concern and the number of patients developing complications of chronic disease is on the rise, according to Norah Terrault, MD, MPH, from the University of California, San Francisco and lead investigator of the study. It is essential that we identify risk factors that can be modified to prevent and/or lessen the progression of HCV to fibrosis, cirrhosis and even liver cancer. These complications of chronic HCV infection will significantly contribute to the overall burden of liver disease in the U.S. and will continue to increase in the next decade.

This is the first study that evaluates the relationship between alcohol and cannabis use in patients with HCV and those coinfected with HCV/HIV. It is of great importance to disease management that physicians understand the factors influencing HCV disease severity, especially those that are potentially modifiable. The use and abuse of both alcohol and marijuana together is not an uncommon behavior. Also, individuals who are moderate and heavy users of alcohol may use cannabis as a substitute to reduce their alcohol intake, especially after receiving a diagnosis like HCV, which affects their liver.

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Contact: Aimee Frank
media@gastro.org
301-941-2620
American Gastroenterological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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