FDA Shames Itself Again

by TChris

The FDA's recent claim that marijuana has no medical benefit is a triumph of politics over science, of turf protection over compassion.

Several officials in the 11 states that allow medical marijuana disputed the F.D.A.'s contention that there was no research supporting the drug's medical use. They noted, in particular, a 1999 review by the National Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious scientific advisory panel, which found marijuana to be "moderately well-suited" to some conditions, including wasting disease from AIDS and the nausea that often results from chemotherapy.

The scientists who authored the National Institute of Medicine report have good reason to take issue with the FDA.

The federal government "loves to ignore our report," Dr. John Benson, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and co-chairman of the Institute of Medicine committee that examined the research into marijuana's effects, told The New York Times. "They would rather it never happened."

Other scientists agree that the FDA should base statements on research, not politics.

Dr. William M. Lamers, a consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America, which represents palliative-care centers across the country, told HealthDay: "It's too bad that instead of a statement like that, they [the FDA] don't put money into doing some really valid research. There is none being done now in the United States."

Compare the careful research conducted by the National Institute of Medicine with the approach taken by the FDA:

Ordinarily, when the F.D.A. addresses a thorny issue, it convenes a panel of experts who wade through the latest evidence and then render an opinion as to whether a substance is safe and effective to use. This time the agency simply issued a skimpy one-page statement asserting that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana.

An editor at Scientific American argues that the FDA's opinion will further impede useful research into the health benefits of marijuana:

Back in December 2004, SciAm published "The Brain's Own Marijuana," by Roger A. Nicoll and Bradley N. Alger (you can read the entire text here). The article's deck tells the tale: "Research into natural chemicals that mimic marijuana's effects in the brain could help to explain--and suggest treatments for--pain, anxiety, eating disorders, phobias and other conditions."

The FDA undoubtedly wanted to mollify conservative senators who called for the report, while protecting its turf as the guardian of all things drug related. This isn't the first time the Bush administration's FDA has allowed ideology to triumph over science. The agency has no desire to allow states or citizen initiatives or scientists to set drug policy. As a sad result, we'll see more stories like this one:

For the first time in the city of Sacramento, federal drug agents on Wednesday conducted a search of what authorities said was a medical marijuana store.

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    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#1)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 08:13:31 AM EST
    Any statements by the FDA are unimportant. FYI the FDA has NO regulatory power over drugs of abuse. Those drugs are under the jurisdiction of the mighty DEA. The FDA is a regulatory enforcement agency. Their statement is just a political stunt. Not very honorable ethics for a group of physicians.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 08:30:49 AM EST
    I wonder if the War on Drugs, like the War on Terror, is getting to be so expensive and so obviously ineffective that people are starting to ask pointed questions. The War on Drugs, IMHO, is a part of the GOP's effort to encourage culture wars between fundamentalists and the average American. But, in the case of marijuana (which seems to account for most of the expense of the war), to be losing traction with more and more initiatives to legalize at least the medical use of marijuana. And, I think, people are becoming aware that marijuana is less harmful and less addictive than either alcohol or tobacco.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#3)
    by Punchy on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 08:57:13 AM EST
    The FDA political? Yes, Barr Labs knows this all too well. Bush mantra--if it's based on logic and reason, reject it.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 09:13:46 AM EST
    The FDA works closely with the pharma companies. They will only support medical mj in pill form, so the right people make money off of it. Make a dose of mj cost 50 bucks in pill form, as opposed to 50 cents in it's natural form.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#5)
    by squeaky on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 10:03:59 AM EST
    Che's Lounge-
    FYI the FDA has NO regulatory power over drugs of abuse.
    Yes that may be true but they do have tremendous power over what drugs get researched. The FDA aggressively makes medical MJ research impossible. This is political and not about serving the public good.
    The federal agency said state moves to legalize marijuana use "are inconsistent with efforts to ensure that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the FDA approval process."   But scientists studying marijuana said in interviews that the federal government has actively discouraged research into marijuana's benefits.   Lyle Craker, a professor in the division of plant and soil sciences at the University of Massachusetts, said that he submitted an application in 2001 to the drug agency to grow a small patch of marijuana to be used for research because government-approved marijuana, grown in Mississippi, is of poor quality.   In 2004, the drug enforcement agency turned Craker down. He appealed and is awaiting a judge's ruling. "The reason there's no good evidence is that they don't want an honest trial," Craker said.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#6)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 11:05:02 AM EST
    This is just another clear example of partisan politics superceding logic and freedom. The minority plutocracy uses their tools to instill their personal politics into a medical/social issue through the auspices of an expectedly non partisan regulatory agency. Where do the vichy Dems stand on this issue? Cue crickets.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 11:20:55 AM EST
    Whatever the reason I personally have never heard of Marijuana Smokers committing harsh crimes to support there habit. Either way that's how backwards are country is to vote in a crook like George Bush Jr. What can anyone expect. Marijuana should not be legal people should just smoke to hell with what the government says I can't understand why a bunch of dope smokers can't have a pow wow on the White House lawn they can't arrest all of you who partake.This is what it's all about isn't. Protest do what's right.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#8)
    by Dadler on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 12:53:39 PM EST
    Too bad all those sad-sacks that use cannabis didn't get relief from booze. They'd have no problems. What a dysfunctional, corrupt, illogical, dishonest play by the FDA Tryannies everywhere can be happy.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#9)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 06:40:15 PM EST
    What a crock of sh*t. Why can't law-and-order types like Patrick admit that laws spawned by such a rigged system are simply not legitimate?

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#10)
    by Johnny on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 09:33:21 PM EST
    Scar, to patricks credit, he rarely defends pot laws. he merely enforces them. Thats his job. i guess.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Sat Apr 22, 2006 at 10:45:56 PM EST
    guys, what would be the DEA's reason for existing, if pot were made legal, in any way, shape or form? none, really. this is a craven, transparent ploy to keep those budget bucks flowing to the DEA and all other law enforcement agencys that deal with illegal drugs. make it legal, and they have no reason for being. too many jobs at stake to allow that. i am reminded of the study, on the effects of pornography, ordered by richard nixon, to support his planned legal crackdown. unfortunately, some nitwit honest person got in on that, and the final report was suppressed. its conclusions were nearly the polar opposite of those expected/anticipated. oh well!

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#12)
    by Che's Lounge on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 09:04:37 AM EST
    Cpinva, Nixon also commissioned a similar report about MJ. The report basically said there were no significant social consequences to the decriminalization of MJ. Nixon never read it. The creation of the DEA soon followed.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 09:12:03 AM EST
    The prohibitionists hate to hear the truth...that millions of otherwise law abiding, tax paying Americans use mj and the sky isn't falling.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#14)
    by Che's Lounge on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 09:28:48 AM EST
    They're afraid of what vistas may open up. Creativity is the enemy.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#15)
    by Che's Lounge on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 09:31:56 AM EST
    Creativity is the wrong word. Rove could be labeled creative. They're afraid of the awakening minds of the masses. MJ is an awareness drug. Ands not everyone who smokes it lays on the couch all day. Therein lies the threat.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#16)
    by Edger on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 09:39:06 AM EST
    Scar, I have to agree with Johnny. Ptrick's job, if he wants to keep it, as do most of us, is not to decide what laws to enforce. Though he and I don't aalways agree, Patrick is one of the most reasonable polecemen I've ever run across.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#17)
    by Edger on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 09:40:04 AM EST
    Soory aboot the typo abuv Patrik. ;-)

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#18)
    by squeaky on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 10:27:14 AM EST
    Scientific American chimes in:
    What is completely wrong about the FDA's position, however, is that in effect it continues to impede not just the medical use of marijuana but also medical research on marijuana, which could lead to superior therapies that don't involve smoking or getting high at all.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#19)
    by SeeEmDee on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 03:40:42 PM EST
    Here's something to think about: the phrasing of the FDA's headline. Notice how it's now 'smoked marijuana' that's being targeted here. Why is that? Perhaps because the liquid marijuana called Sativex, available in Canada and undergoing FDA approval trials here, is almost ready for marketing? The story of Sativex is a study in how 'politics makes starnge bedfellows'. But you may recognize the cast of characters. During her tenure as DrugCzarina, "Dr." Andrea Barthwell railed against all forms of marijuana, stating that it had no medical uses. Now that she is a company officer of GW Pharmaceuticals, which developed Sativex, she has changed her tune to only 'smoked marijuana' having no medical value. Of course, GWP's liquid marijuana is magically exempted from such past condemnation on her part. It's been said many times that one of the reasons behind the continued prohibition of cannabis in this country has been the theory that re-legalization won't happen unless Big Pharma gets its' 'pound of flesh' by acquiring a monopoly on legal production and distribution, thus ensuring it's profits in perpetuity. This monopoly can only happen with the Fed Gub'mint's approval...and collusion. Given that the FDA has been blasted with one scandal involving conflicts of interest after another (The honoraria scandal of FDA personnel receiving money from pharmacorps; shoddy research done by the corps ands then being accepted by the FDA on their word, leading to the Vioxx debacle; etc.) this should not surprise anyone. This is only partly about the FDA cringing and scraping before DrugWarriors; the bigger picture, as always, requires you to follow the money.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#20)
    by jondee on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 03:49:20 PM EST
    Who started that "Czar" b.s anyway? Was it that red faced, decadent late-Roman Bennett?

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#21)
    by squeaky on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 03:53:35 PM EST
    SeeEmDee -Sativex is more $$ than weed and less good. What a racket. I agree that the only reason it is illegal now is that no corporation is silly enough to lobby for it. It grows like a weed you know. The only solution would be to make it a felony to grow it. Then it would be fine for Pfizer and RJR Reynolds to sell their own adulterated versions. The corps could also probably find a way to make it highly addictive by adding a bit of this and that, thus insuring many years of profit. Then it would be fine and biz as usual.

    Re: FDA Shames Itself Again (none / 0) (#22)
    by Sailor on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 04:54:56 PM EST
    I disagree about rove being 'creative.' Tearing things down does not require creativity, building them does.