Cannabis research will improve patient outcomes

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The role of medicine and science in finding cures for human diseases has gained a new level of appreciation and understanding over the past year. Amid tremendous suffering and loss, in less than a year we have seen unprecedented advances in science and innovation in the approval of not one, but three vaccines for COVID-19. In addition, there are two new types of vaccine – mRNA – that bring new hope and promise in the treatment of cancer and other devastating diseases. This scientific development is the result of decades of research and underscores the need for science to move beyond traditional methods to new approaches to all types of diseases.

I am an epilepsy specialist and I care for patients with seizures. About 30% of my patients have severely disabled forms of epilepsy and are at risk of premature death from their seizures. As a healthcare provider, I am always grateful for tools that I can use to alleviate the suffering of my patients.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has shown potential in several therapeutic areas and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of seizures in three rare forms of epilepsy. Cannabis has also been shown to be beneficial in treating other conditions, including spasticity, pain, and anxiety. At the moment, the possibility that cannabis can treat or alleviate a myriad of other conditions is very real, but we may never know exactly what potential it has given the significant restrictions currently imposed on cannabis research.

In the case of CBD, we know that this cannabis-derived compound is pharmaceutically active, which means that while it shows promise in meeting the medical needs of patients, it can also bring safety risks and side effects, as well as drug interactions, to patients can take. Other compounds or drug ingredients used to treat and relieve serious medical conditions have been carefully studied so that we can have accurate data on their dosage, drug interactions, and much more. Unfortunately, we lack this data for CBD and other cannabinoids. Simply put, more scientific studies are needed.

And while CBD has tremendous therapeutic potential, it’s not necessarily a harmless compound. In fact, the FDA has stated that it rightly cannot designate CBD as GRAS (General Recognized as Safe). Clinical studies and data compiled by the FDA to date indicate that CBD can be linked to liver damage, male reproductive problems, and other harmful effects. Here, too, we need further scientific studies.

The therapeutic potential of cannabis and its derivatives is reason enough to expand his research. Without scientific research, we will not have solid knowledge and evidence to support the widespread claim that cannabis is completely safe. This is of particular concern as more states legalize cannabis for medical and / or recreational purposes.

As Americans become more familiar with cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, so too are lawmakers. We need to ensure that state and federal policymakers pushing for marijuana legalization also push for more clinical trials of cannabis and cannabis derivatives so that we can better understand how these substances can be used to our advantage.

Cannabis should be treated for its medical promise to advance the modern challenges in medicine. We need heads of state who promote and support scientific and medical cannabis research so that our patients with unmet medical needs have demonstrably better treatment options. Research will protect consumers and help us realize the potential of cannabis to advance modern medical challenges.

Dr. Rolando Ania is a specialist in neurology, epilepsy and electrodiagnostics and serves as the head of neurology and head of epilepsy at Renown Health.