October 27, 1998
Synthetic THC Fails To Provide Relief For Some
New NORML Report Finds
Washington, D.C.: The availability of synthetic THC should not preclude patients from legally using marijuana as a medicine, concluded a report released by the NORML Foundation.
Synthetic THC, marketed as the drug Marinol, "often provides only limited relief to a select group of patients, particularly when compared to whole smoked marijuana therapy," the report found. "Marinol should remain an option for patients and physicians; however, federal law should be reformed to allow for those patients unresponsive to synthetic THC the opportunity to use inhaled marijuana as a legal medical therapy."
The report states, "The active
ingredient in Marinol, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is only one of the compounds isolated
in marijuana known to have medical benefit to patients." For example, research
published this summer in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
demonstrated that additional compounds found naturally in marijuana, but unavailable in
Marinol, appear to protect brain cells during head trauma and strokes. Head injuries
are the leading cause of
death among young people in America, and there presently are few if any effective treatments for such traumas.
"By federally prohibiting the consumption of whole smoked marijuana, the government unnecessarily forces patients to use a synthetic substitute that lacks much of the therapeutic effectiveness marijuana provides," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of The NORML Foundation.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Marinol in 1985. DEA policy advises physicians to prescribe Marinol only to patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy or suffering from the AIDS wasting syndrome. Medical research demonstrates that marijuana is therapeutic in the treatment of several additional illnesses such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.
Many patients who have tried Marinol report that they find minimal relief from the drug and often experience unwanted side effects. In addition, many physicians have difficulty prescribing the drug, and some patients are unable to afford it. In a series of state-sponsored studies conducted in the 1980s, patients offered a choice between using oral THC or whole smoked marijuana as a medicine almost all reported finding greater medical relief from marijuana.
The report is now available online at: www.norml.org/medical/marinol.html.