Cannabinoids for Pain Control during Medical Abortion: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Alyssa Covelli Colwill, Katie Alton, Paula H. Bednarek, Lisa L. Bayer, Jeffrey T. Jensen, Bharti Garg, Kathleen Beardsworth, Alison Edelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE:To evaluate whether prophylactic dronabinol, a synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, reduces pain during medical abortion.METHODS:We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of women undergoing medical abortion with mifepristone and misoprostol up through 70 days of gestation. All participants received 800 mg of ibuprofen and were randomized to either 5 mg of oral dronabinol or a placebo 30 minutes before misoprostol administration. Participants used a text messaging service to report pain on a numeric rating scale from 0 to 10 (0=no pain, 10=worst pain). The primary outcome was maximum pain experienced during the 24 hours after misoprostol administration. Secondary outcomes were pain scores at 0, 6, and 24 hours after misoprostol administration; maximum anxiety and nausea scores; use of additional pain medication; reported side effects; and satisfaction (yes or no). We needed 68 participants (34 per group) to have 80% power to detect a 2-point difference in maximum pain on a numeric rating scale.RESULTS:From November 2018 to May 2019, we randomized 70 women (dronabinol=35, placebo=35). Participants in the study arms had comparable baseline characteristics. We found no difference between groups in the median maximum pain score reported (dronabinol 7 [interquartile range 6-8], placebo 7 [interquartile range 5-8], P=.82) or median pain scores at any timepoint. Groups were also no different in mean maximum anxiety (dronabinol 3.33 [SD 3.06], placebo 3.23 [SD 2.53], P=.88) or nausea scores (dronabinol 2.21 [SD 2.32], placebo 2.72 [SD 2.64], P=.41). Most women were satisfied with their pain management (76% dronabinol, 82% placebo, P=.51).CONCLUSION:Dronabinol does not reduce the maximum level of pain experienced by women undergoing medical abortion.CLINICAL TRIAL, NCT03604341.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1289-1295
Number of pages7
JournalObstetrics and gynecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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