Many Oncologists Discuss, Recommend Medical Marijuana

Marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that while many oncologists are willing to discuss and even recommend medical cannabis to patients, the majority of them feel that they don't have enough knowledge about the plant medicine to make solid clinical recommendations. Nearly 80% of the conversations were initiated by patients, as reported online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO).

This is a "concerning discrepancy", said Dr. Ilana Braun, chief of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's division of adult psychosocial oncology, in Boston. "These findings are scientifically crucial and suggest crucial spaces in research, medical education, and policy concerning medical marijuana".

'Whatever they want to do to make themselves comfortable, ' said Pergam, who wasn't involved in the new research. "We need to bridge this gap so oncologists have the unbiased information they need to assist with decision-making related to medical marijuana use". "While this topic is common, however, data on medical marijuana use is less so". Of the 237 participants who responded, more than half (55 percent) practice in states where medical marijuana is legal. Oncologists in states that have not legalized medical marijuana need education about the therapeutic alternatives that might be available, he added.

But for other ailments, the medical powers of cannabis are less certain.

Medical marijuana comes in a variety of strains and potencies, the authors continued. The items might be "smoked, vaporized, consumed, taken sublingually, or used topically".

No randomized trials have evaluated medical marijuana for oncology indications. "So, often oncologists are borrowing from clinical trials for other diseases, or extrapolating from evidence on pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoids".

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Oral synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol received FDA approval for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Over the past two decades, the medical community has gradually come around to accepting that cannabis has a wide number of medical benefits.

According to the European study, after 6 months of medical marijuana usage, over 93% of the subjects reported that their pain had decreased.

The study was conducted in 2016 where the researchers randomly sampled 400 medical oncologists from across the country. The survey included questions about clinical discussions of marijuana, views on comparative efficacy versus other therapies, risks of medical marijuana versus other therapies, and items to allow comparisons of respondent characteristics and their answers.

A newly published survey chose to find out by asking 237 oncologists from across the country. Far more (80%) discussed MM with patients, while 46% clinically recommended MM. Oncologists who had a high practice volume ( 60 patients weekly) and who practiced outside a hospital were also more likely to report discussions about medical marijuana, and practicing outside a hospital increased the likelihood of recommending medical marijuana. Roughly two-thirds of respondents viewed MM as a helpful adjunct to standard pain management strategies; a similar proportion viewed MM as equally or more effective than standard treatments for anorexia/cachexia. A minority said medical cannabis was at least equivalent to basic therapy for nausea and vomiting (48.4%), stress and anxiety (45.8%), coping (40.3%), and poor sleep (34.9%).

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