The State of the Research: Medical Marijuana

The use of marijuana to treat health issues is a hot topic, and big pharmaceutical companies are researching the possibilities.

At this time the state of the research is explained by Dr. Bertha Madras of Harvard University: “In reality, there is no such thing as “medical marijuana”; that is, there is not a particular type of marijuana used for medicinal purposes, let alone for a specific, proven medical purpose.  Physician recommendations for medicinal use of smoked marijuana (obtainable in a dispensary) are not grounded in systematic, evidence-based research, which is the hallmark of our system.”—Bertha Madras

Nonetheless, pharmaceutical companies are working to develop cannabis-based products that could possibly treat medical conditions without giving you the high.   The federal government lists 183 studies exploring the medical applications for THC, and 273 studies investigating medical properties of CBD.

These companies are also facing the reality that clinical trials of medical marijuana are not going that well, as GW Pharmaceutical shares fell markedly with the announcement that Sativex performed no better than a sugar pill for cancer pain ; a recent neurology conference highlighted mixed results for the use of cannabidiol in children with intractable seizures, with 30% benefiting somewhat but 47% experiencing important side effects, including some with increased seizures; the marijuana product Sativex has been deemed by the British health care system to be too costly for the modest benefit (18% improvement) it delivers for the spasticity of multiple sclerosis, while showing no benefit for the pain, and as mentioned in the last newsletter, a PTSD study presented at a recent conference reported that marijuana users with this disorder made significantly less progress towards recovery and were more violent than nonusers.

Major pharmaceutical companies have the money to absorb such failures in their projected market, when the failures occur.   Contrary to popular belief, there are many studies into the possible medical properties of the marijuana plant.

Currently California-based Nemus Bioscience Inc. is looking into 6 main cannabis derived extracts that could one day be helpful in treating glaucoma, epilepsy, MRSA and other conditions without the negative side effects of marijuana.

For years, there has been talk of smoking cannabis–marijuana–to lower eye pressure for patients with Glaucoma.   The Glaucoma Research Foundation also believes current medications work better than marijuana.  Another problem with cannabis is that its effects don’t last as long as the current medications. Yet there is still research into finding the compounds to lower the eye pressure and target the tissues that don’t make a person high.  In animal trials, cannabis-derived medications have been shown to reduce eye pressure up to 50 percent.  These treatments in the form of eye drops are being developed, according to the National Center for Biotechnology.

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