Does the Pot Pill Work? A Look at Marinol

  • The FDA has written documentation that patients can overdose on Marinol and .. it can be lethal – 4 deaths are directly attributed to Marinol to date, whereas Marijuana in its natural form has never killed anyone. See the middle of the page here
  • For a brilliant rant on Marinol go here
  • NORML has a great post on the subject here
  • For more on Marinol from a Harvard doctor’s point of view, see  “Puffing is the best medicine


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The Government Says a Pill Called Marinol Offers the Same Benefits as Medical Marijuana. Is it True?  (Source)

“Medical marijuana,” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says, “already exists.”

They don’t just mean in California. A pill known as Marinol has been legal and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use with a prescription anywhere in America since 1985.

It’s active ingredient? Dronabinol, better known as THC, the primary psychoactive element of the cannabis plant.

“Marinol provides standardized THC concentrations, does not contain the other 400 uncharacterized substances found in smoked marijuana, such as carcinogens or fungal spores, and is not associated with the quick high of smoked marijuana,” said Neil Hirsch, a spokesman for Marinol manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals.

But Marinol is not the same thing as traditional, smokable marijuana. It is a less complex substance lacking both some of the good components found in traditional marijuana (such as cannabidiol, which has been found to have anti-seizure effects) and the bad or not-yet-fully-understood components (among them potential carcinogens) that can also come with the drug.

Ken Trainer, a 60-year-old Massachusetts resident who has battled Multiple Sclerosis for 25 years, said he has long been smoking marijuana to deal with the regular tremors he gets in his arms and legs.

“If I smoke a joint, the tremors go away most times before the joint is gone,” he said. “It makes my life a little easier.” Marinol, by contrast, “didn’t really do much of anything for me,” he said.

56-year-old Des Moines resident Jeff Elton, who was diagnosed with gastroparesis six years ago, had a similar experience when he was prescribed Marinol to deal with his chronic nausea and vomiting.

“I felt no relief, I didn’t feel ill, I felt nothing,” he said. “It might as well be M&M’s.”

Elton said he switched to marijuana, which he smokes through a vaporizer – a device that heats the active ingredients into a vapor instead of burning them. He said it allows him to keep down his food and regain some of the weight he lost while on Marinol.

“[One] problem with Marinol is that it’s orally administered,” Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, said in an email. “Therefore, it takes longer to work than cannabis inhaled from a vaporizer. (Usually 90 minutes at best rather than 15 seconds – a meaningful amount of time to the nauseated.)”

“It’s harder to control dosage, too, so folks end up discombobulated or without symptom relief,” he added. “In addition, folks who are vomiting can’t hold down the pills.” Earleywine also said that a dose Marinol costs three to five times as much as a comparable dose of medical marijuana.

Defenders note that Marinol is not meant to be a cure-all: It has been approved specifically for treating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy and for treating anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS.

“When the whole push for the smoked product came along, it was often for those two indications,” said Dr. Herbert Kleber, a professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University and the former deputy drug czar under President George H.W. Bush. “And in general, I’ve not seen any need for the smoked form of marijuana for those two indications. Marinol had already been shown to be quite effective for those two things.”

“Are there actions in the whole plant that you don’t get from just the Marinol? I would be surprised if there wasn’t,” he continued. “The problem is that most of the data about the potential medical actions of the smoked form are anecdotal.”

 

Research into the effects of medical marijuana is ongoing: The University of California, San Diego, for example, boasts a Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research engaged in “focused controlled clinical trials on the efficacy of cannabis in patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, cancer, seizures or muscle spasms associated with a chronic debilitating condition, or any other serious condition providing sufficient theoretical justification.” (The director of the UCSD program, Dr. Igor Grant, was out of the country and could not be reached for this story.)

The Los Angeles Times, which offers a nice overview of the current research, writes that “a growing body of research supports [medical marijuana's] medical usage, but some of it is cautionary.” Marijuana has been found to be effective in counteracting severe pain, nausea and loss of appetite, though questions remain about the drawbacks, among them possible respiratory damage and increased cancer risk.  [Editor's Note: Why is this concern still brought up, when the top cancer-cannabis researcher has found that smoking cannabis absolutely does not cause cancer?]

The calculus, then, isn’t quite as simple as the Drug Enforcement Administration suggests: Marinol and medical marijuana may share an active ingredient, but they offer somewhat different benefits and different drawbacks. Proponents of medicinal marijuana say it’s disingenuous to hold up Marinol as a direct alternative to the more traditional form of the plant.

“I just don’t understand how they won’t let me smoke a joint, but they’re more than happy to write me out prescriptions for anything that I want,” Trainer said.

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Obama’s drug czar blames hot weather for medical marijuana lie

Source: Stephen C. Webster The Raw Story

This could not have happened even a year ago.

Gil Kerlikowske, the United States Drug Czar, has backpedaled on his pronouncement that marijuana “is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.”

His original statement was made to The Fresno Bee on July 22. But in a little-noticed interview with Komo 4 News in Washington earlier this month, Kerlikowske was given a second chance to address the question.

As pointed out by Jacob Sullum at Reason, the nation’s top official on drugs excused his statement by blaming the weather:

“We had been hiking in 107 degree weather in the Sierra Nevadas and when we came down … The question was in reference to smoked marijuana and as you know, smoked marijuana has not been shown by the FDA to have that, to show medicinal value. And that … This is a medical question and that’s where we’re gonna leave it.”

So, specifically, he believes marijuana burned then inhaled has no medicinal value, but other modes of delivery may.

The qualification does make sense, given that the FDA has approved human trials for Sativex, a liquid form of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — that can applied under the tongue or as an inhaled mist. Maker GW Pharmaceuticals said it is developing the drug “as a treatment for patients with advanced cancer whose pain has not been adequately relieved by optimized treatment with strong opioid medications.”

It’s also worth noting that the federal government has run a medical marijuana program since the 70′s, called the “compassionate investigative new drugs” initiative. Only about 30 people were ever enrolled, and among them fewer than 10 survive today. Every month, each member of the program is given a tin can of some 300 rolled marijuana cigarettes. To smoke.

Paid for and grown by the U.S. Government.

The continued existence of this program makes even Kerlikowske’s backtrack ring hollow. Of course, it’s still notable as a public shift for the still-new drug czar.

In February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the federal government would no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have voted to allow doctors the right to prescribe the herb to their patients.

During the interview, Kerlikowske added that marijuana legalization is not in his vocabulary, but that the main focus of his office going forward will be prescription drugs, which he said kill more Americans than gun violence each year.

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