Medical Marijuana Could Cost Big Pharma

Once the federal government finally allows medical marijuana to become a legitimate part of the healthcare industry, Big Pharma could suffer the loss of billions of dollars, a new report finds.

It seems the pharmaceutical trade has more than enough reasons to fear the legalization of marijuana, as an analysis conducted by the folks at New Frontier Data predicts the legal use of cannabis products for ailments ranging from chronic pain to seizures could cost marketers of modern medicine somewhere around $4 billion per year.

The report was compiled using a study released last year from the University of Georgia showing a decrease in Medicare prescriptions in states where medical marijuana is legal. The study, which was first outlined by the Washington Post, was largely responsible for stirring up the debate over how a legitimate cannabis market might be able to reduce the national opioid problem. It found that medical marijuana, at least with respect to those drugs for which it is considered an alternative treatment, was already costing pill manufactures nearly $166 million annually.

Researchers at New Frontier identified nine key areas where medical marijuana will do the most damage to the pharmaceutical market — castrating drug sales for medicines designed to treat anxiety, chronic pain, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, nerve pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, Tourette syndrome and glaucoma.

By digging deep into each condition, researchers found that if cannabis was used an alternative treatment in only a small percentage of cases, it could strip in upwards of $5 billion from pharmaceutical industry’s $425 billion market.

Although that may not sound like much of a dent, John Kagia, executive vice president of industry analytics for New Frontier, said, “The impact of medical cannabis legalization is not going to be enormously disruptive to the pharmaceutical industry.”

The report specifically calls out drug giant Pfizer Inc, suggesting that medical marijuana could suck a half billion dollars from its $53 billion in annual sales revenue.

It is distinctly possible that the latest report paints an accurate portrait of the impact medical marijuana could have on the pharmaceutical trade — that is, unless the drug manufactures decide to get in on the cannabis business.

GW Pharmaceuticals and Insys Therapeutics are already developing cannabis-based medications that are set to come to market in the near future. Depending how medicinal cannabis regulations eventually shake out with the federal government, it is conceivable that the medical marijuana programs that we have come to know would disappear, with the pharmaceutical companies being the only ones profiting from this alternative medicine.

Some experts say federal legalization would change the cannabis industry in ways that would be unsatisfactory to most in the business. 

Marijuana could treat chronic pain better than opioids By Abby Hagtage

In 2016, over 64,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses — either from painkillers, heroin, or fentanyl (a synthetic opioid). To put that number in perspective, that’s more Americans killed by opioids in 365 days than were killed during the entirety of the Vietnam War. Opioids in America are more than a crisis — they’re a national emergency.

While doctors may have helped fuel this epidemic through the over-prescription of opioids, the underlying issue that they were often trying to treat, chronic pain, remains an enormous issue.

Americans, pain pills or not, are hurting. In a recent National Institutes of Health study, 25.3 million adults reported experiencing chronic pain every single day in the three months prior to the study, a number that makes up 11.2 percent of the population. An even larger number, 126 million people, reported experiencing pain of some sort in the three months prior.

Doctors have long voiced concerns that prescription opioid painkillers — on top of a high potential for addiction — aren’t actually solving the problem of chronic pain. This week, science confirmed it.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared opioids (Vicodin, oxycodone, and fentanyl) to non-opioids (Tylenol, ibuprofen, and nerve blockers) to see if they were better at treating chronic back, hip, or knee pain. The answer was clear: They were not. “Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with non-opioids for improving pain-related function over 12 months,” the study reads. “Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain.”

The news is a major blow for pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma, who have made billions through prescription painkillers, but it’s even worse news for those suffering the effects of chronic pain. The question it leaves behind: If opioids aren’t the answer to chronic pain, what is?

For a growing number of doctors, the answer comes in the form of another less dangerous drug: cannabis. This past November, three doctors in Illinois started a campaign called Physicians Against Injurious Narcotics, or PAIN, which aims to expand the state’s medical marijuana program to allow anyone that qualifies for opioids to also qualify for marijuana.

Last month, promising research results from Israel added scientific evidence to back their fight. Published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, the study followed 2,970 cancer patients between 2015 and 2017 as they embarked on a medical marijuana treatment program for chronic pain. Each patient was able to choose a plan that specifically catered to their lifestyle, and to pick from 16 different strains of the drug. Pain scales were ranked before taking the medicine and then measured again after the treatment was underway.

The results were overwhelmingly positive. Of the 1,211 cancer patients who were ultimately surveyed (902 patients from the original group died and 680 stopped treatment), 95.9 percent reported an improvement in their condition, and the vast majority of them experienced a dramatic reduction in pain. While at the outset, 52.9 percent of patients had rated their pain between 8 and 10 (on a scale of 10), after six months of treatment, the number reporting that level of pain had dropped to just 4.6 percent.

On top of managing pain, the study showed cannabis capable of addressing other issues the patients were experiencing too. Of those surveyed, 91 percent reported improvements in nausea and vomiting, 87.5 percent reported an improvement in sleep disorders, and 84 percent noticed improvement in anxiety and depression. The study’s authors fully endorse the drug as a treatment option.

“In an age where a physician often prescribes a different medication for each [cancer] symptom, cannabis, as a comprehensive treatment that affects several symptoms, becomes a desirable therapeutic option,” the authors conclude. “Cannabis as a palliative treatment for cancer patients seems to be well tolerated, effective and safe.”

Cannabis’s success in treating chronic pain is echoed in a 2018 review of more than 10,000 abstracts on the topic. Also published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, the large-scale review offers individual conclusions about marijuana’s ability to treat a variety of conditions. Under chronic pain, the authors write, “There were five fair-to-good quality systematic reviews that contributed to the conclusion that there is substantial evidence that Cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

Despite these reports, not everyone agrees that medical marijuana is the answer to chronic pain. Kevin Sabet, founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), thinks that the studies miss the point. “We do know that components of marijuana like THC have shown results for modest pain relief, but that’s a very different conclusion than saying marijuana, which has hundred of components, is good for that,” Sabet tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“I think we need to really distinguish between THC and raw marijuana — especially the kind that the subject would be getting in Israel for the study.” Sheila P. Vakharia, the policy manager of the Office of Academic Engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance — a nonprofit fighting to end the war on drugs — sees it differently. “The general pain levels reported by study participants went down dramatically,” Vakharia tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And to see folks reporting that change is really promising.” Vakharia notes that on top of being effective in treating pain, cannabis comes with fewer risks. Namely, it’s less addictive and rarely fatal.

Although some medical professionals remain reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana, Vakharia says patients are beginning to seek out the benefits of marijuana themselves — and are safer as a result. A look at data in the states where marijuana is legal suggests she’s right. According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the rate of deaths from prescription drug overdoses is 25 percent lower in states where medical marijuana is legal.

While Sabet thinks that more research needs to be done before individuals start using marijuana as a substitute for opioids, Vakharia hopes that the shift already underway will gain momentum. “I think the evidence will continue to build — and will start to persuade people who are otherwise reluctant to consider it as a treatment for themselves, or to recommend it as a medical professional,” Vakharia tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “But only time will tell.”

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Could cannabis oil cure cancer? BBC News

The BBC’s Alastair Leithead reports on how evidence is growing that cannabis could cure diseases like cancer. The medical value of cannabis has been hotly debated for years. Its use as a relaxant or a pain reliever is widely accepted now. Read more: Cancer and cannabis

Medical marijuana could prevent recovering addicts from relapse, study finds By Oscar Pascual, SmellTheTruth

Recovering drug and alcohol addicts may be able to stay clean with the help of non-psychoactive cannabis, new research suggests.

A preclinical study published in the medical journal Neuropsychopharmacology finds that the therapeutic compound found in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD), can help control impulses to use addictive drugs such as alcohol and cocaine, reports Science Daily.

An investigative team at the Scripps Research Institute studied rats with a history of using alcohol or cocaine daily on their own, leading to behavior associated with addiction. The researchers applied a CBD gel to the rats once per day, and reported that CBD effectively reduced relapse provoked by stress and drug cues. The drug-experienced rats also experienced a reduction in anxiety and impulsivity.

The rats were examined five months after being administered CBD, and still showed signs of a reduced relapse. The result was unexpected, considering that CBD was completely cleared from the brain and plasma of the rats only three days after completing therapy.

“Drug addicts enter relapse vulnerability states for multiple reasons,” said the study’s lead author, Friedbert Weiss. “Therefore, effects such as these observed with CBD that concurrently ameliorate several of these are likely to be more effective in preventing relapse than treatments targeting only a single state.”

Study Exonerates Marijuana Smoking, No Link to COPD By Monterey Bud

Smoked marijuana achieves different outcomes for different people: some smoke weed to relax while others use cannabis to medicate. Regardless of the rationale, the Journal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease revealed there is no direct correlation between prolonged exposure to marijuana smoke and adverse pulmonary function in a report released Tuesday.

In an attempt to drill down the controversial relationship between marijuana use and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a team of inquisitive scientists from the Colorado School of Public Health performed a cross-sectional analysis of 2,304 “current and former tobacco smokers” between the ages of 40 and 80. 

Provided a lofty title, “Marijuana use associations with pulmonary symptoms and function in tobacco smokers enrolled in the Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD,” the SPIROMICS study scrutinized the perceived relationship between marijuana use and respiratory function.

“Marijuana lifetime exposure and current use status were assessed at enrollment (online supplement Table 1). Marijuana use was categorized into current (use in the past 30 days), and former (use over 30 days ago) users and compared to never users. Those with a history of marijuana use estimated the number of bowls or joint equivalents smoked per week and how many years the participant had smoked marijuana (one bowl was equated to one joint in this analysis). This information was used to calculate the number of joint years which was kept as a continuous variable; 1 joint year is equivalent to smoking 1 joint or bowl per day for one year. A supplementary analysis was added to assess the impact of joint-year history with lung function and symptoms. Joint years were categorized into <10, 10-20, and >20 joint-year history and compared to those who reported zero joint years.”

Results from the study concluded, “Neither current nor former marijuana use was associated with increased risk for cough, wheeze, or chronic bronchitis when compared to never marijuana users after adjusting for covariates.” While providing the caveat that these results “are likely heavily biased and should be interpreted with caution,” the study concluded that individuals exposed to long-term marijuana use had a lower percentage of emphysema, higher totals of lung tissue volume, and a higher percentage of air trapping, after compensating for covariates.

A study spanning two decades conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin, a professor of medicine and co-director of the Asthma and Cough Center at UCLA, also concluded that long-term marijuana use does not impair lung function.

Acute Effects Of Smoked Marijuana And Oral Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol In Asthmatics

American Review of Respiratory Disease, Volume 109, 1974, p. 420-428
By Donald P. Tashkin, Bertrand J. Shapiro, and Ira M. Frank

SUMMARY: The acute effects of smoked 2 per cent natural marijuana (7 mg per kg) and 15 mg of oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on plethysmographically determined airway resistance (Raw) and specific airway conductance (SGaw) were compared with those of placebo in 10 subjects with stable bronchial asthma using a double-blind crossover technique. After smoked marijuana, SGaw increased immediately and remained significantly elevated (33 to 48 per cent above initial control values) for at least 2 hours, whereas Sgaw did not change after placebo. The peak bronchodilator effect of 1,250 mcg of isoproterenol was more pronounced than that of marijuana, but the effect of marijuana lasted longer.

After ingestion of 15 mg of THC, SGaw was elevated significantly at 1 and 2 hours, and Raw was reduced significantly at 1 to 4 hours, whereas no changes were noted after placebo. These findings indicated that in the asthmatic subjects, both smoked marijuana and oral THC caused significant bronchodilation of at least 2 hours’ duration.

Marijuana prevents people from doing ‘hard’ drugs, claims study By Olivia Petter

Cannabis might still be illegal in the UK, but new research has found that the leafy substance might not be the vilified “gateway drug” it’s widely thought to be.

In fact, in might be the key to discouraging users from progressing to “harder” drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy, claim scientists at the University of New Mexico.

The five-year-long study involved 125 participants, all of whom were suffering from chronic pain.

83 were taking cannabis as a prescriptive pain mediator, whereas 42 chose to abstain.

They found that 34 per cent of the cannabis users stopped taking their medication, in comparison to just two per cent of the non-smokers, with 98 per cent continuing to take their prescribed drugs.

“Our current opioid epidemic is the leading preventable form of death in the US – killing more people than car accidents and gun violence,” explained lead author and psychology professor Jacob Miguel Vigil.

“Therefore, the relative safety and efficacy of using cannabis in comparison to that of other scheduled medications should be taken by the health providers and legislators,” he told Kobini.

He explained that painkillers and street heroin typically kill 90 people in the US every day; whereas some studies claim that cannabis consumption has never directly caused a fatality.

However, in 2014, Gemma Moss became the first British woman to die from cannabis toxicity, after she reportedly smoked £60 worth of the drug in one week which led her to die from cardiac arrest.

Whilst now legal in several US states, in the UK, possession of the class B drug could put you in prison for five years whilst selling and producing it could land you 14.

Medical Marijuana’s Main Ingredient Isn’t Dangerous or Addictive, World Health Organization Report Says By Melina Delkic, Newsweek

A top global health agency has declared the main ingredient in medical cannabis nonaddictive and nontoxic, according to a new report.

“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,” wrote the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency that focuses on public health. Researchers spent months looking into cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that’s often used for medical purposes. It often comes in the form of oils, drops or capsules.

The organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) found “no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” They also found that, according to several clinical trials, CBD could be good for treating epilepsy and “a number of other medical conditions.”

Although the report came out in November, it drew international attention only on Wednesday, after the WHO published concrete recommendations from the ECDD’s November meeting. In addition to recommending a stricter scheduling for a type of opioid, the committee recommended a new approach to cannabis, responding to increased interest among its member states in researching and legalizing it.

In emails to Newsweek, spokespeople for the WHO clarified that the report very clearly “does not say that WHO recommends the use of cannabidiol.” What the WHO recommends “is that cannabidiol should not be scheduled for international control on the basis of current evidence, and that a fuller review will be carried out next year, when other cannabinoids are discussed.”

The committee said that CBD did not need to be controlled (or government-regulated) on an international level, and that this should be left up to individual nations. “Saying it should not be scheduled for international control means that it should not be prohibited, at the international level, to produce and supply it for specific purposes, such as medical treatment and research, given that WHO has not so far seen evidence of potential for abuse or harm from cannabidiol,” a spokesperson wrote. “As to what is legal or illegal, that comes under national law, so it is up to countries to decide.”

The committee will start the expanded review of CBD in May 2018, when it will make more specific recommendations and conclusions.

The legality of CBD has been a source of confusion for years. Even though it’s the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Administration emphasized in 2016 that it is still illegal and still a Schedule I substance, along with drugs like heroin and LSD. The DEA does not recognize a distinction between CBD and any other kinds of marijuana.

Even though the DEA once eased trials for CBD in late 2015, it released a statement in July saying that CBD was still very much illegal. “Because ‘Charlotte’s Web’/CBD oil is not an FDA-approved drug…it is a schedule I controlled substance under the [Controlled Substances Act],” the DEA said.

Because marijuana is a Schedule I drug, the DEA rarely approves research on it. And even though many states have legalized it for medical and recreational use, it remains illegal on the federal level.

Proponents in the U.S. have long argued that states and researchers should at least be allowed to look into CBD’s benefits and either prove or disprove them.

Even some Republicans, who are typically more hesitant about marijuana legalization, are beginning to agree. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a bill to that effect. “We lack the science to support use of medical marijuana products like CBD oils, not because researchers are unwilling to do the work but because of bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation,” Hatch said.

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Dangers Hyped, Benefits Ignored By Lanny Swerdlow, RN Culture Magazine

When I was a student nurse, I spent two weeks in a maternity ward where I was assigned to one expectant mother to care for. She was 37 and having her fifth child. During the pregnancy, she developed hyperemesis gravidarum, a nausea so severe that it can lead to electrolyte imbalances that can be life-threatening to the fetus. This mother chose to use cannabis to treat the hyperemesis. It worked very well without any of the side effects of other medications commonly used to treat it.

As it was standard operating procedure at the hospital I was interning at, she underwent a drug screen when she came to the hospital for delivery. Not surprisingly she tested positive for cannabis. As a consequence, she was investigated by Children’s Protective Services, a note was put in her chart of child endangerment and after her baby was born (weighing over seven pounds), she was not allowed to breastfeed and was separated from her baby who was placed in neonatal intensive care unit where the baby was fed formula.

Cannabis use during pregnancy to treat nausea, pain and depression is far safer to both mother and child than any of the medications that are given to women to treat those conditions during pregnancy.

Reefer madness and genuflecting to law enforcement drove health care professionals to claim that cannabis is a danger to both the fetus and the baby and that more research has to be done. Until then the horrors experienced by my patients, the 37-year-old mother and her baby, are par for the course.

Finally, the research has been done. Not only does it document that there is no harm from a mother’s use of cannabis, it also debunked the poor methodology of previous research papers which purported to show severe negative consequences to the child.

Published in the October 2016 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the medical review utilized research findings from 31 previous studies that interviewed over 132,000 pregnant women.

Earlier studies concluded that cannabis use during pregnancy resulted in a greater likelihood of having a preterm birth or a baby with low birth weight.

The new research found that the babies of the 7,800 women who only used cannabis during pregnancy were no more likely to suffer preterm birth or low birth weight babies than the 124,000 women who reported no cannabis use.

The new research demonstrated that the previous studies were deficient as they did not consider tobacco smoking separate from cannabis smoking. Utilizing research protocols that separated those who only used cannabis from those who used cannabis and tobacco, the researchers found that the women who only used cannabis did not have an increase for preterm birth or a low birth weight baby.

Those who used both cannabis and tobacco suffered an 85 percent increased risk of having preterm birth or low birth weight babies. Cannabis only did not produce those results—it was the tobacco. It has been long known that tobacco use during pregnancy is detrimental to the fetus and the same is even truer for alcohol, yet no one seems to be demanding the prohibition of these substances in the name of fetal health.

Opioids used during pregnancy to treat pain can result in babies having spina bifida (neural defect), hydrocephaly (fluid in the brain), congenital heart defects and other deforming and life threatening problems. Anti-depressants, especially SSRIs like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, have been demonstrated to produce autism spectrum, developmental disorders and birth defects in babies.


Complicating the picture is that neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) occurs when a baby is exposed to a drug in the womb before birth and then goes through withdrawal from the drug after birth. NAS is most often the result of a pregnant woman taking opioids.

Rather than discouraging women from using cannabis during pregnancy, doctors should be encouraging women to use cannabis in place of the far more dangerous drugs they are given during pregnancy to treat pain, depression and insomnia. This outdated and anachronistic anti-cannabis policy continues to negatively impact the lives of millions of expectant mothers and their soon to be born children.

Read more:

The CIA And The Drug Trade

C.I.A. Secrets: Afghanistan Heroin

Opium: The Other Failed US War in Afghanistan

Drug money is an inherent part of the American economy

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