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April 2006
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FDA moves even further away from science and toward politics

Under pressure from drug warriors, the FDA, released a statement opposing the use of medical marijuana. After a series of false statements claiming that “no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use,” the FDA concluded:

A growing number of states have passed voter referenda (or legislative actions) making smoked marijuana available for a variety of medical conditions upon a doctor’s recommendation. These measures are inconsistent with efforts to ensure that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the FDA approval process and are proven safe and effective under the standards of the FD&C Act. Accordingly, FDA, as the federal agency responsible for reviewing the safety and efficacy of drugs, DEA as the federal agency charged with enforcing the CSA, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as the federal coordinator of drug control policy, do not support the use of smoked marijuana for medical purposes.

The New York Times has done a nice job responding and pointing out how political this move is:

The announcement inserts the health agency into yet another fierce political fight. […] Congressional opponents and supporters of medical marijuana use have each tried to enlist the F.D.A. to support their views.

The ONDCP’s Tom Riley’s response was moronic, as usual:

Tom Riley, a spokesman for Mr. Walters, hailed the food and drug agency’s statement, saying it would put to rest what he called “the bizarre public discussion” that has led to some legalization of medical marijuana.

That statement was eerily reminiscent of his boss’ wishful thinking after the Raich decision:

“Today’s decision marks the end of medical marijuana as a political issue.”

Right.
The Times also provides useful rebuttals to the FDA piece.

Dr. John Benson, co-chairman of the Institute of Medicine committee that examined the research into marijuana’s effects, said in an interview that the statement on Thursday and the combined review by other agencies were wrong.
The federal government “loves to ignore our report,” said Dr. Benson, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “They would rather it never happened.” […]
“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the F.D.A. making pronouncements that seem to be driven more by ideology than by science,” said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a medical professor at Harvard Medical School. […]
…scientists who study the medical use of marijuana said in interviews that the federal government had actively discouraged research. […]
Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said he had studied marijuana’s medicinal effects for years but had been frustrated because the National Institutes of Health, the leading government medical research agency, had refused to finance such work.[…]
“One wonders how anyone” could fulfill the Food and Drug Administration request for well-controlled trials to prove marijuana’s benefits, he said. […]
…the Institute of Medicine report concluded there was no evidence that marijuana acted as a gateway to harder drugs. And it said there was no evidence that medical use of marijuana would increase its use among the general population.
Dr. Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, said he had “never met a scientist who would say that marijuana is either dangerous or useless.”
Studies clearly show that marijuana has some benefits for some patients, Dr. Piomelli said.
“We all agree on that,” he said.

So how do you respond to that, FDA?
Update:
“bullet” Davis Sweet has fun with the FDA statement at the Huffington Post

Citizens: I know a lot of people who smoke marijuana, and they seem like they’re doing all right.
Gummint: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Citizens: Seems like more than half of me has tried it, even the past couple of presidents.
Gummint: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! HIPPIEEEEEEEEEEEEES! HIPPIES EVERYWHERE!
Citizens: But Shining Example Bush isn’t running around in funky costumes preaching love and stuff, is he? Oh, wait…

“bullet” ONDCP pod-people-cast tries to defend and crow about the FDA statement. ONDCP policy analyst stooge David Murray is “interviewed” (I love the fact that they introduce him as “Doctor David Murray” as if to imply that he has medical knowledge.) His argument included such gems as the fact that the FDA verified that marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug — by definition having no medical value and being prone to abuse — as if this was an evaluation by the FDA, and not simply a Congressional definition that has no connection to reality.
Murray also claims that the Institute of Medicine report did not show medical value from marijuana (he has to really pick selectively through the report to support his claim). He can only do it by ignoring the final conclusions of IOM’s report that recommends n-of-1 trials of marijuana. He also pushes hard the notion of promoting the development of drugs from marijuana, but not smoked marijuana itself.
“bullet” AmericaBlog:

It’s called science, you freaks. It doesn’t change, it doesn’t go away, simply because it makes you uncomfortable. It’s not about you. It’s about objective facts. Is this what you people teach your children? Lie your way to heaven?

“bullet” Bruce Mirken via WebMD:

“This is a political statement, not a scientific statement, and the FDA should be embarrassed,” Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, tells WebMD. […]
“I truly think that years from now, this is going to be looked at as a very sad day and a milestone in the decline of the FDA as a scientific agency,” Mirken says.

“bullet” Rush Limbaugh:

“The FDA says there’s no — zilch, zero, nada — shred of medicinal value to the evil weed marijuana. This is going to be a setback to the long-haired, maggot-infested, dope-smoking crowd.”

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