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Dronabinol is an orally active cannabinoid which, like other cannabinoids, has complex effects on the central nervous system (CNS), including central sympathomimetic activity. Cannabinoid receptors have been discovered in neural tissues. These receptors may play a role in mediating the effects of dronabinol and other cannabinoids.
Dronabinol-induced sympathomimetic activity may result in tachycardia and/or conjunctival injection. Its effects on blood pressure are inconsistent, but occasional subjects have experienced orthostatic hypotension and/or syncope upon abrupt standing.
Dronabinol also demonstrates reversible effects on appetite, mood, cognition, memory, and perception. These phenomena appear to be dose-related, increasing in frequency with higher dosages, and subject to great interpatient variability.
After oral administration, dronabinol has an onset of action of approximately 0.5 to 1 hours and peak effect at 2 to 4 hours. Duration of action for psychoactive effects is 4 to 6 hours, but the appetite stimulant effect of dronabinol may continue for 24 hours or longer after administration.
Tachyphylaxis and tolerance develop to some of the pharmacologic effects of dronabinol and other cannabinoids with chronic use, suggesting an indirect effect on sympathetic neurons. In a study of the pharmacodynamics of chronic dronabinol exposure, healthy male volunteers (N = 12) received 210 mg/day dronabinol, administered orally in divided doses, for 16 days. An initial tachycardia induced by dronabinol was replaced successively by normal sinus rhythm and then bradycardia. A decrease in supine blood pressure, made worse by standing, was also observed initially. These volunteers developed tolerance to the cardiovascular and subjective adverse CNS effects of dronabinol within 12 days of treatment initiation.
Tachyphylaxis and tolerance do not, however, appear to develop to the appetite stimulant effect of MARINOL Capsules. In studies involving patients with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the appetite stimulant effect of MARINOL Capsules has been sustained for up to five months in clinical trials, at dosages ranging from 2.5 mg/day to 20 mg/day.
Absorption and Distribution
MARINOL Capsules is almost completely absorbed (90 to 95%) after single oral doses. Due to the combined effects of first pass hepatic metabolism and high lipid solubility, only 10 to 20% of the administered dose reaches the systemic circulation. Dronabinol has a large apparent volume of distribution, approximately 10 L/kg, because of its lipid solubility. The plasma protein binding of dronabinol and its metabolites is approximately 97%.
The elimination phase of dronabinol can be described using a two compartment model with an initial (alpha) half-life of about 4 hours and a terminal (beta) half-life of 25 to 36 hours. Because of its large volume of distribution, dronabinol and its metabolites may be excreted at low levels for prolonged periods of time.
The pharmacokinetics of dronabinol after single doses (2.5, 5, and 10 mg) and multiple doses (2.5, 5, and 10 mg given twice a day; BID) have been studied in healthy women and men.
Summary of Multiple-Dose Pharmacokinetic Parameters of
Dronabinol in Healthy Volunteers (n=34; 20-45 years) under Fasted Conditions
|Mean (SD) PK Parameter Values|
|BID Dose||Cmax ng/mL||Median Tmax (range), hr||AUC(0-12) ng•hr/mL|
|2.5 mg||1.32 (0.62)||1.00 (0.50-4.00)||2.88 (1.57)|
|5 mg||2.96 (1.81)||2.50 (0.50-4.00)||6.16 (1.85)|
|10 mg||7.88 (4.54)||1.50 (0.50-3.50)||15.2 (5.52)|
A slight increase in dose proportionality on mean Cmax and AUC(0-12) of dronabinol was observed with increasing dose over the dose range studied.
Dronabinol undergoes extensive first-pass hepatic metabolism, primarily by microsomal hydroxylation, yielding both active and inactive metabolites. Dronabinol and its principal active metabolite, 11-OH-delta-9-THC, are present in approximately equal concentrations in plasma. Concentrations of both parent drug and metabolite peak at approximately 0.5 to 4 hours after oral dosing and decline over several days. Values for clearance average about 0.2 L/kg-hr, but are highly variable due to the complexity of cannabinoid distribution.
Dronabinol and its biotransformation products are excreted in both feces and urine. Biliary excretion is the major route of elimination with about half of a radio-labeled oral dose being recovered from the feces within 72 hours as contrasted with 10 to 15% recovered from urine. Less than 5% of an oral dose is recovered unchanged in the feces.
Following single dose administration, low levels of dronabinol metabolites have been detected for more than 5 weeks in the urine and feces.
In a study of MARINOL Capsules involving AIDS patients, urinary cannabinoid/creatinine concentration ratios were studied bi-weekly over a six week period. The urinary cannabinoid/creatinine ratio was closely correlated with dose. No increase in the cannabinoid/creatinine ratio was observed after the first two weeks of treatment, indicating that steady-state cannabinoid levels had been reached. This conclusion is consistent with predictions based on the observed terminal half-life of dronabinol.
The pharmacokinetic profile of MARINOL Capsules has not been investigated in either pediatric or geriatric patients.
The appetite stimulant effect of MARINOL Capsules in the treatment of AIDS-related anorexia associated with weight loss was studied in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 139 patients. The initial dosage of MARINOL Capsules in all patients was 5 mg/day, administered in doses of 2.5 mg one hour before lunch and one hour before supper. In pilot studies, early morning administration of MARINOL Capsules appeared to have been associated with an increased frequency of adverse experiences, as compared to dosing later in the day. The effect of MARINOL Capsules on appetite, weight, mood, and nausea was measured at scheduled intervals during the six-week treatment period. Side effects (feeling high, dizziness, confusion, somnolence) occurred in 13 of 72 patients (18%) at this dosage level and the dosage was reduced to 2.5 mg/day, administered as a single dose at supper or bedtime.
Of the 112 patients that completed at least 2 visits in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 99 patients had appetite data at 4-weeks (50 received MARINOL and 49 received placebo) and 91 patients had appetite data at 6-weeks (46 received MARINOL and 45 received placebo). A statistically significant difference between MARINOL Capsules and placebo was seen in appetite as measured by the visual analog scale at weeks 4 and 6 (see figure). Trends toward improved body weight and mood, and decreases in nausea were also seen.
After completing the 6-week study, patients were allowed to continue treatment with MARINOL Capsules in an open-label study, in which there was a sustained improvement in appetite.
MARINOL Capsules treatment of chemotherapy-induced emesis was evaluated in 454 patients with cancer, who received a total of 750 courses of treatment of various malignancies. The antiemetic efficacy of MARINOL Capsules was greatest in patients receiving cytotoxic therapy with MOPP for Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. MARINOL Capsules dosages ranged from 2.5 mg/day to 40 mg/day, administered in equally divided doses every four to six hours (four times daily). As indicated in the following table, escalating the MARINOL Capsules dose above 7 mg/m² increased the frequency of adverse experiences, with no additional antiemetic benefit.
MARINOL Capsules Dose: Response Frequency and Adverse
Experiences*(N = 750 treatment courses)
|MARINOL Capsules Dose||Response Frequency (%)||Adverse Events Frequency (%)|
|< 7 mg/m²||36||32||32||23||65||12|
|> 7 mg/m²||33||31||36||13||58||28|
|*Nondysphoric events consisted of drowsiness, tachycardia, etc.|
Combination antiemetic therapy with MARINOL Capsules and a phenothiazine (prochlorperazine) may result in synergistic or additive antiemetic effects and attenuate the toxicities associated with each of the agents.
Individualization Of Dosages
The pharmacologic effects of MARINOL Capsules are dose-related and subject to considerable interpatient variability. Therefore, dosage individualization is critical in achieving the maximum benefit of MARINOL Capsules treatment.
In the clinical trials, the majority of patients were treated with 5 mg/day MARINOL Capsules, although the dosages ranged from 2.5 to 20 mg/day. For an adult:
- Begin with 2.5 mg before lunch and 2.5 mg before supper. If CNS symptoms (feeling high, dizziness, confusion, somnolence) do occur, they usually resolve in 1 to 3 days with continued dosage.
- If CNS symptoms are severe or persistent, reduce the dose to 2.5 mg before supper. If symptoms continue to be a problem, taking the single dose in the vening or at bedtime may reduce their severity.
- When adverse effects are absent or minimal and further therapeutic effect is desired, increase the dose to 2.5 mg before lunch and 5 mg before supper or 5 and 5 mg. Although most patients respond to 2.5 mg twice daily, 10 mg twice daily has been tolerated in about half of the patients in appetite stimulation studies.
The pharmacologic effects of MARINOL Capsules are reversible upon treatment cessation.
Antiemetic: Most patients respond to 5 mg three or four times daily. Dosage may be escalated during a chemotherapy cycle or at subsequent cycles, based upon initial results. Therapy should be initiated at the lowest recommended dosage and titrated to clinical response. Administration of MARINOL Capsules with phenothiazines, such as prochlorperazine, has resulted in improved efficacy as compared to either drug alone, without additional toxicity.
Pediatrics: MARINOL Capsules is not recommended for AIDS-related anorexia in pediatric patients because it has not been studied in this population. The pediatric dosage for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced emesis is the same as in adults. Caution is recommended in prescribing MARINOL Capsules for children because of the psychoactive effects.
Geriatrics: Caution is advised in prescribing MARINOL Capsules in elderly patients because they may be more sensitive to the neurological, psychoactive and postural hypotensive effects of the drug. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range. (See PRECAUTIONS.)
MARINOL Capsules should be used with caution when administered to elderly patients with dementia, who are at increased risk for falls as a result of their underlying disease state which may be exacerbated by the central nervous system effects of somnolence and dizziness associated with MARINOL Capsules. These patients should be monitored closely and placed on fall precautions prior to initiating MARINOL therapy. In antiemetic studies, no difference in efficacy was apparent in patients > 55 years old.
Last reviewed on RxList: 2/8/2016
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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