Friday, April 21, 2006

Another Science-and-Policy car crash

A 1999 review by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences here in Washington found that the use of medical marijuana is "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting."

Today, the New York Times reports that the FDA, under pressure from a Republican Congress, the US "drug czar" and the Drug Enforcement Agency, report that there are "no sound scientific studies" to support the IM's findings.

John Benson, the co-chairman of the original IM study in 1999, says that the Federal government "loves to ignore our report." Dr. Jerry Avron, a medical professor at Harvard, says that "this is yet another example of the F.D.A. making pronouncements that seem to be driven more by ideology than by science." Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) called the F.D.A.'s statement a strong indication of how much influence the DEA has over national drug policy. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), thinks that attempts to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes are just a front for the legalization of all uses.

While the FDA says that state initiatives to legalize marijuana for medical use were "inconsistent with efforts to ensure that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the F.D.A. approval process," scientists who study the use of the drug for wasting disorders and other medical problems claim that they are actively discouraged from performing the necessary research.

Yet, the scientific community is unified in its support of the drug's use. When are we going to stop having these science-and-policy car crashes?

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