Doc calls for FDA to approve medical marijuana use

Many doctors are nervous about prescribing medical marijuana. And that's understandable. One key reason is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved marijuana for patients suffering from conditions such as glaucoma, AIDS wasting, multiple sclerosis and cancer, in addition to other health situations where it could prove helpful.

The FDA should conduct research on the efficacy of medical marijuana in the treatment of certain diseases, writes Monya De, M.D., an internal medicine and integrative medicine doctor in the Los Angeles area, in her recent commentary in Medical Economics. Once the FDA confers approval, there should be much less stigma involved in prescribing marijuana to patients, such as a little boy with severe epilepsy, whose seizures stopped after he tried the drug, she writes.

Because legal medical marijuana wasn’t an option at the time, her young patient’s parents gave him small quantities of the drug, writes De. Still, deciding who should receive a prescription for marijuana is certainly a conundrum. While it’s clear that the breast cancer patient isn’t making up her disease, it’s more difficult to tell if the 25-year-old in your office is pretending to be in pain just to get a prescription for medical marijuana.

Acknowledging that FDA approval of medical marijuana for treatment of certain conditions will take years and given the evidence against marijuana as a recreational substance, De says assurance by the FDA will help doctors. “Like many other treatments that were once considered 'fringe' before being accepted into mainstream society, marijuana will likely emerge as a common line of therapy for a variety of conditions,” she writes.

To be sure, making the decision to prescribe marijuana is not an easy one--and caused one Massachusetts doctor, in particular, to lose his license. That decision was recently overturned when a judge ruled that the nurse practitioners in the doctor’s office had independent authority to certify patients for medical marijuana and his license should not have been suspended, reports The Boston Globe.