In Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Mexico, nabilone is marketed as Cesamet. It was approved in 1985 by the United States FDA for treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting that has not responded to conventional antiemetics. Though it was approved by the FDA in 1985, the drug only began marketing in the United States in 2006. It is also approved for use in treatment of anorexia and weight loss in patients with AIDS.
Although it doesn't have the official indication (except in Mexico), nabilone is widely used as an adjunct therapy for chronic pain management. Numerous trials and case studies have demonstrated various benefits for condition such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
The main settings that have seen published clinical trials of nabilone include movement disorders such as Parkinson's syndrome, chronic pain, dystonia and spasticity neurological disorders, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and the nausea of cancer chemotherapy.
A study comparing nabilone with metoclopramide, conducted before the development of modern 5-HT3 inhibitor anti-emetics such as ondansetron, revealed that patients taking cisplatin chemotherapy preferred metoclopramide, while patients taking carboplatin chemotherapy preferred nabilone to control nausea and vomiting. Another study compared nabilone alone to nabilone with dexamethasone. The study found that the combination worked better than the single medication. An older study revealed that nabilone was more effective than prochlorperazine in controlling nausea, though in this study, only 9% of nabilone patients had complete resolution of symptoms. A follow-up to this study revealed similar findings.
One study compared the efficacy and tolerability of nabilone with that of dihydrocodeine in the treatment of neuropathic pain. The authors found that nabilone was not as effective as dihydrocodeine in controlling pain, and caused a higher incidence of minor adverse drug reactions than did dihydrocodeine. One critic of the study has suggested that nabilone might be best suited for the treatment of patients suffering from central and spasticity-related pain, for which there is stronger evidence for the benefits of cannabinoid therapy; however, these patients made up only a small fraction of the study's population, and the study was not designed to identify subgroups which might have responded more favorably to treatment than others.