Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Now That's Change I Can Believe In!

In this week's issue of the Medical Letter (1), a brief review regarding medical marijuana is included, which concluded that,
"Medical marijuana may be effective for treatment of nausea, anorexia, pain and some other conditions, but published data supporting its efficacy for treating patients with intractable cancer pain are limited, dosage is not well standardized, and cannabis is often poorly tolerated, especially by older patients. " (Jan 25 issues, 2010)
This conclusion was based on a review of the three forms in which marijuana is usually consumed: botanical, oral synthetic, and oromucosal. As it relates to the botanical form (most popular among the 18-34 demographic), the Medical Letter stated that for nausea, pain, anorexia, asthma, glaucoma and spasticity,
"It appears to be modestly effective, depending on the dose, for some of these disorders, but well-controlled studies large enough to be convincing are lacking, and non-standardization of dosage makes the available data difficult to interpret." (my emphasis)
Let's forget about the controversy surrounding marijuana as a medicinal agent or as an illicit schedule I controlled substance (i.e., high abuse potential; no legitimate medical use). Just focus on the reason why, this drug, which is legal for medicinal use in 14 states, lacks "well-controlled studies large enough to be convincing" as a medicinal agent: the federal government has a monopoly on the supply of marijuana for large scale, FDA approved study:
"DEA's final ruling rejecting the application of UMass Amherst Professor Lyle Craker for a license to cultivate research marijuana for use by scientists in FDA-approved research. The ruling, which contradicts the recommendation of DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner, maintains the unique government monopoly over the supply of marijuana available for FDA-approved research." (2)
Here's the back story: Professor Craker and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) applied for that license 7 years ago. A DEA administrative judge, Ms. Ellen, recommended the license because "competition with NIDA would be in the public interest." Still the DEA rejected the application.

Marijuana must be a very, very dangerous drug because every other Schedule I drug (e.g., cocaine) can be produced by government-licensed independent laboratories.

The only organization that conducts research on marijuana in large scale studies is the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (3) As the name of the organization betrays, their interest lie in showing how bad marijuana can be. Since the Institute on Drug Abuse is a federal organization, the research produced there is used to produce legislation. (4) This lack of competition is what prevents real discoveries and innovations, which can be a benefit to the public, from being made.

The individual responsible for making this final DEA ruling is Michele Leonhart, whom Obama just nominated as the new head of the DEA. (5) I vaguely remember Obama promising some sort of Change as it relates to marijuana policy (i.e., no more raids). (6) However, raids on marijuana clinics still continued. In response to this apparent hypocrisy, Mr. Obama's White House said that,
"It expects those kinds of raids to end once Mr. Obama nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers."
Mr. Leonhart is one of those Bush holdovers. Now that's Change!

Medical Letter, Inc. (2010). Medical Marijuana The Medical Letter, 52 (1330)


Anonymous said...

"Well-controlled studies large enough to be convincing are lacking, and non-standardization of dosage makes the available data difficult to interpret...."

So marijuana is approved as a medicinal agent on the basis of what, exactly?

You have to admit, if the above statement were written about any pharmaceutical agent and yet the FDA approved it, the outrage would be palpable.

NeuroPsych said...

With the exception of certain synthetic forms (THC containing Marionol), marijuana is not FDA for anything.

Because of the heavy restrictions, government bias, and poor funding, studies that would meet the FDA research standards cannot be done.

It's medicinal uses are not unfounded, however(

Government regulations pretty much prevent high quality research from being done, which could demonstrate how effective or ineffective marijuana is for various conditions.

Anonymous said...

FDA research of the medicinal benefits marijuana and the government's ongoing-toilet-flushing of taxpayer funds-"the war on drugs" conflict with each other.