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The Effect of Orally Administered Low-Dose Dronabinol on Retinal Blood Flow and Oxygen Metabolism in Healthy Subjects.

  • Hommer, Nikolaus1
  • Schmidl, Doreen1
  • Kallab, Martin1
  • Bauer, Martin1
  • Werkmeister, René M2
  • Schmetterer, Leopold1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Abensperg-Traun, Marihan8
  • Garhöfer, Gerhard1
  • 1 Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. , (Austria)
  • 2 Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. , (Austria)
  • 3 Singapore Eye Research Institute, Singapore, Singapore. , (Singapore)
  • 4 Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore. , (Singapore)
  • 5 Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Academic Clinical Program, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, Singapore. , (Singapore)
  • 6 SERI-NTU Advanced Ocular Engineering (STANCE), Singapore, Singapore. , (Singapore)
  • 7 Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology, Basel, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
  • 8 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. , (Austria)
Published Article
Journal of ocular pharmacology and therapeutics : the official journal of the Association for Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Publication Date
May 17, 2021
DOI: 10.1089/jop.2020.0131
PMID: 33999707


Purpose: The present study was performed to investigate the effect of oral dronabinol, a synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol derivate, on retinal hemodynamics in healthy subjects in a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled, 2-way crossover design. Methods: Twenty-four subjects received 5 mg dronabinol on 1 study day and placebo on the other study day. Total retinal blood flow (TRBF) was measured using a custom-built Doppler Optical Coherence Tomography system. Oxygen saturation of major retinal vessels was measured with a commercially available Dynamic Vessel Analyzer. Based on these parameters, retinal oxygen extraction was calculated. Measurements were performed before and after drug administration on both study days. Results: Placebo had no effect on TRBF, retinal arterial or venous oxygen content, and retinal oxygen extraction (P > 0.1 each). In contrast, dronabinol induced a significant increase in TRBF from 38.9 ± 6.1 to 40.7 ± 6.7 μL/min (P < 0.001), which was accompanied by a significant increase in retinal venous oxygen content (from 0.129 ± 0.008 to 0.132 ± 0.009 mL O2/mL, P = 0.02). As no change in retinal arterial oxygen content occurred (P = 0.12), retinal oxygen extraction remained stable (2.2 ± 0.4 μL vs. 2.2 ± 0.4 μL O2/min, P = 0.29). Conclusions: These results indicate that orally administered dronabinol increases TRBF in healthy subjects without altering retinal oxygen extraction. The drug may therefore be a candidate for improving perfusion in patients with ocular vascular disease.

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