No proof that medical marijuana works for many ailments, researchers say

No proof that medical marijuana works for many ailments, researchers say

Associated Press
in Chicago

marijuana
Marijuana plants at a medical dispensary in Oakland, California. Photo: AP

Medical marijuana has not been proven to work for many illnesses that many jurisdictions have approved it for, according to the first comprehensive analysis of research on its potential benefits.

The strongest evidence is for chronic pain and for muscle stiffness in multiple sclerosis, according to the review, which evaluated 79 studies involving more than 6,000 patients. Evidence was weak for many other conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome and the authors recommend more research.

The analysis is among several medical marijuana articles published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They include a small study suggesting that many brand labels for edible marijuana products list inaccurate amounts of active ingredients. More than half of brands tested had much lower amounts than labeled, meaning users might get no effect.

The researchers pooled results from studies that tested marijuana against placebos, usual care or no treatment. That’s the most rigorous kind of research but many studies found no conclusive evidence of any benefit. Side effects were common and included dizziness, dry mouth and sleepiness. A less extensive research review in the journal found similar results.

It’s possible medical marijuana could have widespread benefits, but strong evidence from high-quality studies is lacking, authors of both articles say.

“It’s not a wonder drug but it certainly has some potential,” said Dr Robert Wolff, a co-author and researcher with Kleijnen Systematic Reviews Ltd, a research company in York, England.

Researchers evaluated 47 brands of medical marijuana products, including candy, baked goods and drinks, bought at dispensaries in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

Independent laboratory testing for THC, marijuana’s leading active ingredient, found accurate amounts listed on labels for just 13 of 75 products. Almost 1 in 4 had higher amounts than labeled, which could cause ill effects. Most had lower-than-listed amounts. There were similar findings for another active ingredient. Products were not identified by name.

Johns Hopkins University researcher Ryan Vandrey, the lead author, said he was surprised so many labels were inaccurate. The researchers note, however, that the results may not be the same in other locations.

Twenty-three US states and Washington, DC, have laws permitting medical marijuana use. Approved conditions vary but include Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, kidney disease, lupus and Parkinson’s disease. It’s also available for medical purposes in Canada and a number of European nations.

An editorial in the journal says approval in many US states has been based on poor quality studies, patients’ testimonials or other nonscientific evidence.

Marijuana is illegal under federal US law and some scientists say research has been stymied by government hurdles including a declaration that marijuana is a controlled substance with no accepted medical use.

But in a notice published Tuesday in the Federal Register, the Department of Health and Human Services made it a little easier for privately funded medical marijuana research to get approved. The department said that a federal Public Health Service review of research proposals is no longer necessary because it duplicates a required review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Colorado, one of a few states where recreational marijuana use is legal, has pledged more than US$8 million in state funds for several studies on the drug’s potential medical benefits, including whether it can reduce veterans’ symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. That study may begin recruiting participants later this year, said Vandrey, one of that study’s leaders.

Vandrey said there’s a feeling of optimism in the research community that “we’ll start to get a good science base” for the potential medical uses of marijuana.

The editorial by two Yale University psychiatrists suggests enthusiasm for medical marijuana has outpaced rigorous research and says widespread use should wait for better evidence. Federal and state governments should support and encourage such research, the editorial says.

“Perhaps it is time to place the horse back in front of the cart,” Drs Deepak Cyril D’Souza and Mohini Ranganathan wrote in the editorial.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 June, 2015, 8:39am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 June, 2015, 8:39am

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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