DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Since the 1970s, doctors have been prescribing the drug fenofibrate (name brand Tricor) to help patients reduce their cholesterol. Now it’s one of the most popular drugs of its kind because it has few side effects. But according to new research, fenofibrate may be well-suited to treat a variety of other health issues, such as pain, nausea, or psychological conditions, because it taps into the same receptors as marijuana. This research could lead to a new class of drugs that induces the most medically useful effects of cannabis, without the unwanted side effects.
Both fenofibrate and marijuana contain compounds that bind to cannabinoid receptors, found in the membranes of cells in the brain and other organs. The researchers took cultures of cells with cannabinoid receptors and added a dose of fenofibrate. Using a compound that allowed them to track the cell’s activity, the researchers observed that the drug turned on these receptors and relaxed the tissue, which also happens when cells are exposed to marijuana.
With a better understanding of how fenofibrate affects the body, the researchers hope it might eventually be prescribed for a variety of conditions that are currently treated with marijuanua, including pain, insomnia, loss of appetite, or some psychological conditions like anxiety or schizophrenia. Cannabis-receptor drugs could give patients the relief that marijuana provides without unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, increased appetite, red eyes, and dry mouth.