Health Care

Many Oncologists Discuss, Recommend Medical Marijuana

Many Oncologists Discuss, Recommend Medical Marijuana”

Thirty states have medical cannabis laws in place - including IL, where cancer is among the qualifying conditions.

In the study, 67 percent of cancer doctors said they view marijuana as a useful addition to standard pain therapies, with 75 percent saying it posed less risk of overdose than opioids.

There is now a lack of high-quality evidence that supports the use of medical cannabis for cancer-related illnesses which could be why so many oncologists feel ill-equipped to discuss or recommend products to their patients.

Tennessee has become the second state to pass a law allowing pharmaceutical companies to market their products for off-label uses; a House panel advanced legislation that would expand access to private sector care outside of the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system; and almost half of oncologists recommend medical marijuana to their patients.

The study found most conversations about medical marijuana are initiated by patients. "It just makes you more comfortable." .

To assess how cancer doctors are grappling with this issue, Braun and her colleagues surveyed a nationally representative random sample of 400 oncologists. "The scientific evidence base supporting use of medical marijuana in oncology remains thin", Braun said.

Of those who recommended its use, 56 percent admitted that they did not consider themselves well-informed enough to have done so.

The responses were very positive in favor or medical marijuana, but revealed a strong indication that oncologists are not confident in their knowledge on medical marijuana as a treatment for cancer-related illnesses. Majority of the respondents viewed medical marijuana as helpful in managing pain and more effective in treating anorexia and cachexia, a cancer-related adverse event characterized by muscle weakness and sudden loss of weight. "I think marijuana has a lack of evidence behind some things for benefit and may have some downsides, but I do not think marijuana, per se, is a highly risky therapy", Epstein said.

That means many cancer patients - like Springfield resident Larry Lenkart - must use trial-and-error to figure out how to use cannabis to manage the side effects of chemotherapy. That leaves doctors to make assumptions from other research on similar prescription drugs, or in other types of patients.

Results of a survey published May 10 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that 80 percent of medical oncologists have discussed using medical marijuana with cancer patients, and 46 percent said they recommended it clinically. However, a latest survey revealed that nearly half of the respondents recommended cannabis for their cancer patients.

Researchers mailed a survey to 400 practicing oncologists in the USA, randomly selected from a national database of board-certified medical oncologists.



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