How The FDA Celebrated 4/20

How The FDA Celebrated 4/20
Posted by CN Staff on May 02, 2006 at 07:16:52 PT
By Jason Sheltzer, Princetonian Columnist
Source: Daily Princetonian 
New Jersey -- On April 20, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an advisory that claimed that smoking marijuana served no legitimate medical purpose. In yet another instance of politics trumping science in the Bush administration, the advisory cited no new scientific research and blatantly contradicted the most comprehensive government review of the health benefits of marijuana that has been conducted to this date.
In that 1999 study, 11 of the nation's foremost scientists and physicians from the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that "marijuana's active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting and other symptoms."Under fire for its absurd position, the FDA took to the Oped page of The New York Times, where former FDA official Henry Miller wrote that the agency's opinion was justified because the act of smoking marijuana is so harmful that it outweighs any health benefits.  Please. Give the average member of Terrace an ounce of marijuana and a free hour, and she'll come back with a dozen different ways to get high without smoking it. Marijuana doesn't have to be smoked for its health benefits to be enjoyed, and the FDA knows it.  The real motivation behind the FDA's statement is purely political. It's the latest in a long line of steps that the FDA has taken in order to protect the profits of drug companies. Every year, the FDA collects over $250 million in "user fees" from the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies, which make up a substantial portion of the agency's budget, according to The Center for Public Integrity. Furthermore, many of the FDA's scientific advisers are financed by research grants and consulting fees from drug companies, and as long as the amount is less than $100,000, the advisers are allowed to vote on the approval of drugs made by the same companies that pay them.  The return seen by drug companies on this "investment" is huge. Last year, when the FDA had to decide whether to allow sales of painkillers like Celebrex and Vioxx that had been shown to cause heart problems in many patients, 10 of the 32 members of the FDA's advisory panel were found to have received funding from Merck, Novartis or Pfizer, the companies that made the drugs in question. The panel voted to allow their sale, but if those 10 advisers had been forbidden from voting, the decision would have been reversed.Similar conflicts of interest are at play in the medical marijuana debate. In states where medical marijuana has been placed on voter referenda, drug companies are frequently found financing the opposition. It's easy to see why. If you're a cancer patient suffering from extreme pain and for relief, you can choose either OxyContin, whose side effects include nausea, vomiting and addiction, or a pot brownie, whose side effects include euphoria and the munchies, many would choose the latter. Obviously, marijuana isn't a panacea, and drug companies have developed many excellent treatments for illnesses that have no natural cure, but in this instance, it's clear that drug companies are sacrificing the greater good to protect their bottom line.  Of course, there are a number of other political issues at play in the debate over medical marijuana at the federal level. The same religious conservative groups, like Focus on the Family, that have opposed research into a vaccine for HPV and that successfully pressured the FDA into banning the over-the-counter sale of Plan B have also voiced their hostility toward medical marijuana.  Thankfully, impassioned citizens, fed up with the subservience of the Bush administration to the interests of religious fundamentalists and Big Pharma, have moved the debate to the state level. Eleven states have passed legislative bills or voter referenda that allow to varying degrees the possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes. It isn't a simple red state/blue state divide, either. In addition to progressive states like California and Washington, traditionally conservative states like Montana and Colorado have also split with the Bush administration and chosen to allow the greatest possible relief to human suffering.  Those who would benefit from medical marijuana are some of our nation's most destitute and downtrodden citizens: AIDS and cancer patients, those with terminal illnesses and many others for whom unbearable pain is a part of everyday life. These are the people most affected by the FDA's refusal to condone medical marijuana.  The National Academy of Sciences has concluded that marijuana provides many therapeutic benefits at a minimum health risk. Why can't the FDA break free of its financial backers and accept it?Jason Sheltzer is a molecular biology major from St. Davids, Pa. He can be reached at:  sheltzer princeton.eduSource: Daily Princetonian (NJ Edu)Author: Jason Sheltzer, Princetonian ColumnistPublished: May 2, 2006Copyright: 2006 Daily Princetonian Publishing Company, Inc.Contact: mgao princeton.eduWebsite: Articles & Web Site:IOM Report Dictate Disapproval Of Marijuana Yes or No To Medicinal Use? 
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on May 03, 2006 at 09:50:46 PT:
I always said this has to wind up in court
Lie must be answered by truth, instance for instance, measure for measure, but in a venue where the liars get punished for their lies...and there's only one place that can happen, and it isn't at a press conference, but before a judge worthy of his or her robes. I wouldn't bother giving the HHS a deadline, but sue their arses now; they've had more than enough time, which they've wasted in dithering. 
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Comment #3 posted by Max Flowers on May 02, 2006 at 09:37:37 PT
The end game is on
Government Pressed to Defend Medical Marijuana Policies with Sound Science or Face Federal LawsuitWell then, they're simply screwed with a capital S! They have no sound science, and they know it as well as we do (better, maybe). Only lies, bluster, propaganda, "contract research", obfuscation, falsehoods.They will be able to trot out a bunch of fake science, and this they will do as a delaying tactic, because the bastards want to fight to the bitter end. Well, have it your way, feds. We'll see you in court, where you will be humiliated and defeated. Your evil will be exposed for everyone across the whole spectrum to see for what it is. Is that what you want? Fine! You will likely be sued anyway, even after we win, for the heinous wrongs you have comitted against thousands upon thousands of the people you are sworn to serve.
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Comment #2 posted by Truth on May 02, 2006 at 08:36:33 PT
Gotta love it
We work hard, earn our wages, pay our taxes, to hire folks to lie to us. Time for a change.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on May 02, 2006 at 07:56:06 PT
ASA: For Immediate Release
DPFCA: FW: Government Pressed to Defend Medical Marijuana Policies with Sound Science or Face Federal Lawsuit May 2, 2006Patient Group Calls on Data Quality Act to DemandChanges from Department of Health and Human Services (Tuesday, May 2 – Washington, DC) – Lawyers on behalf of thousands of cancer, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain and other patients today sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) demanding a response to their petition filed 18 months ago claiming that the government’s policies on medical marijuana are in violation of the Data Quality Act (DQA). The patient advocacy group – Americans for Safe Access – says the government is circulating misinformation that ignores scientific data proving that marijuana can ease suffering for certain illnesses. “Politics is trumping science when it comes to the government’s medical marijuana policies,” says Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “While HHS is ignoring the evidence, sick people are suffering.”Under the DQA, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, the information circulated by federal agencies must be fair, objective and meet certain quality guidelines. It also permits citizens to challenge government information believed to be inaccurate or based on faulty, unreliable data.ASA filed their original petition with HHS in October, 2004. Under the law, public petitions must receive a response within 60 days. Indeed, approximately every 60 days ASA has received a letter – a total of eight of them -- from HHS telling them that the Department needs “additional time to coordinate Agency review.” But since the FDA released their high-profile Inter-Agency Advisory on April 20 stating that “no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana,” ASA will not tolerate further delays. If HHS does not issue a definitive response by June 12, 2006, says the letter, a suit will be filed in federal district court.“The jig is up,” says attorney Joseph Elford, who sent the letter to HHS on ASA’s behalf. “If the HHS refuses to offer the truth to the American people, then we will take them to court and let the facts speak for themselves.” Established research, federal reports and patient experience all show marijuana works for pain, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety and the severe muscle spasms associated with Multiple Sclerosis, spinal injury and other conditions. Even the government’s own Institute of Medicine – part of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences – found in 1999 that marijuana is “moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting.” ASA is specifically requesting the following factual corrections from HHS:*	HHS states that: "there have been no studies that have scientifically assessed the efficacy of marijuana for any medical condition." ASA requests that HHS replace this statement with the following statement: "Adequate and well-recognized studies show the efficacy of marijuana in the treatment of nausea, loss of appetite, pain and spasticity."*	HHS states that: "a material conflict of opinion among experts precludes a finding that marijuana has been accepted by qualified experts" and "it is clear that there is not a consensus of medical opinion concerning medical applications of marijuana." ASA requests that HHS replace this statement with the following statement: "There is substantial consensus among experts in the relevant disciplines that marijuana is effective in treating nausea, loss of appetite, pain and spasticity. It is accepted as medicine by qualified experts."*	HHS states that: "a complete scientific analysis of all the chemical components found in marijuana has not been conducted." ASA requests that HHS replace this statement with the following statement: "The chemistry of marijuana is known and reproducible."*	HHS states that marijuana: "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." Based on the corrections above, ASA requests that HHS replace this statement with the following statement: "Marijuana has a currently accepted use in treatment in the United States."Currently eleven states have laws permitting patients to legally use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation, but these laws are at odds with the federal prohibition that categorizes marijuana as more dangerous than cocaine or amphetamines. The Department of Health and Human Services is one of the four entities that can independently change the classification of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. The others are the Drug Enforcement Administration, Congress, and the Executive Branch. # # #Americans for Safe Access      -- -- is the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research.
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