Trust medical marijuana, N.J.'s top health official asks doctors and medical students: reports: New Jersey's top doctor Tuesday encouraged physicians and medical students to embrace cannabis as another tool to help their patients, despite acknowledging that rigorous scientific research is lacking.

Here are a few highlights of his message but be sure to click on the full story to read the full article and watch a video from the day's event:

  • "At the end of the day, this is about patients. The Department of Health is pushing this because...many times it is the best therapy you can give them."
  • "I want this to be in physicians' and other providers' heads as a therapeutic option -- not something separate, not sort of in a different category like alternative medicine. This really is reaching a level of relevance and importance to patients,"

Cannabis versus Cancer: Scientific American

Scientific American reports: "Countless scientific studies have shown that medical cannabis offers palliative care benefits, including appetite stimulationpain relief and more. But early research indicates that cannabinoids can do so much more. Data is showing that medical marijuana has antitumor effects and may one day be used as a cancer treatment, not just as a drug to ease symptoms of the disease." Full article. 

Research: Anticancer effects of phytocannabinoids used with chemotherapy in leukaemia cells, International Journal of Oncology (May 27, 2017)

Early research is providing cancer patients with new hope.

From Abstract: "Phytocannabinoids possess anticancer activity when used alone, and a number have also been shown to combine favourably with each other in vitro in leukaemia cells to generate improved activity. We have investigated the effect of pairing cannabinoids and assessed their anticancer activity in cell line models. Those most effective were then used with the common anti-leukaemia drugs cytarabine and vincristine, and the effects of this combination therapy on cell death studied in vitro. Results show a number of cannabinoids could be paired together to generate an effect superior to that achieved if the components were used individually." Full study here.

Is there a double-standard when it comes to off-label pharmaceuticals and medical cannabis?

In Canada, all prescription pharmaceuticals (“drugs”) must be approved for sale by Health Canada. When Health Canada approves a drug for sale the approval stipulates, among other things; the population for whom the drug can be prescribed, the indication(s) 
the drug can treat, and the dosage(s) that can be administered. The use of an approved drug beyond the criteria set out in the product’s approval is referred to as “off-label” use. 

1 in 9 drugs are used off label: 99.2% of gabapentin is used off label and 75% of pediatric medications are used off label. According to a Health Canada report (below), 79% of off-label prescriptions were not supported by strong scientific evidence. (Strong evidence was described as at least one randomized, controlled clinical trial {RCT}.) Yet, when it comes to medical uses for cannabis, the same rules do not apply and the standards for evidence are so much more rigorous. As a physician seeing the positive impacts of cannabinoid therapy on my patients every day, I really question this double-standard — especially given cannabis’ excellent safety profile. 

Check out the Senate of Canada Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs Science and Technology on Prescription Pharmaceuticals in Canada - Off Label Use.

Research: Opioid use lower in states that eased medical marijuana laws, JAMA (April 2, 2018)

On Monday, the Journal of the American Medical Association published two studies investigating whether access to medical cannabis reduces opiate use and abuse. This article from NPR provides a solid, balanced overview.

NPR reports: 

Medical marijuana appears to have put a dent in the opioid abuse epidemic, according to two studies published Monday.

The research suggests that some people turn to marijuana as a way to treat their pain, and by so doing, avoid more dangerous addictive drugs. The findings are the latest to lend support to the idea that some people are willing to substitute marijuana for opioids and other prescription drugs.

Many people end up abusing opioid drugs such as oxycodone and heroin after starting off with a legitimate prescription for pain. The authors argue that people who avoid that first prescription are less likely to end up as part of the opioid epidemic.

"We do know that cannabis is much less risky than opiates, as far as likelihood of dependency," says W. David Bradford, a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia. "And certainly there's no mortality risk" from the drug itself.

Read full article here.

Research: Daily cannabis use could delay at-risk youth from moving to higher drug use, BC Centre on Substance Use (March 2018)

The Globe and Mail today reports that consuming cannabis every day could delay at-risk youth from moving on to injecting more dangerous drugs, according to a new study that casts doubt upon the age-old assumption that marijuana acts as a gateway for teens to try other more harmful substances.

Dr. Blake Pearson to offer virtual appointments to long-term care patients in Ontario

In addition to Dr. Pearson’s medical cannabis clinic, serving individuals across Sarnia-Lambton, he has been focusing on the long-term care community for the last several months and has been seeing great success with these patients. Currently, Dr. Pearson is seeing patients in several Sarnia-area LTC homes and we are delighted to announce that he is now taking virtual appointments on the Ontario Telehealth Network (OTN) platform

New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy expands medical marijuana program: NBC

A renaissance is coming to New Jersey’s long embattled medical marijuana program. 

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced a long list of reforms this morning, including lowering fees for patients and caregivers, adding five approved medical conditions and proposing legislation to increase monthly product limit for patients.

Patients receiving hospice care would be eligible for an unlimited supply of cannabis. Effective immediately, patients suffering from anxiety, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, and chronic visceral pain will be eligible for the medical cannabis program.

Murphy added that he would like to eventually see opioid addiction added to the growing list of approved conditions. He called cannabis “an offensive weapon” to the growing crisis.

Full article