By Robert C. Goethe, MD
Florida now has over 100,000 patients who are on the state registry to use medical marijuana (cannabis) and that number is rapidly rising. Considering the lack of support from organized medicine and efforts within the federal and state to derail the movement, the public has discovered that cannabis is, in fact, a better and safer alternative to what has traditionally been pushed on us by the pharmaceutical companies.
The evidence is showing that cannabis may well be a major solution to the opioid crisis. (JAMA 4/3/18) It is not physically addicting like opiates and can’t kill you with an overdose. Cannabis also controls seizures in certain types of patients when nothing else will and doesn’t have the intolerable side effects of standard anti-seizure medications. It controls tremors in Parkinson’s Disease, nausea in chemotherapy, reduces anxiety in PTSD. It’s a wonderful alternative to many more dangerous, more expensive and less effective drugs.
The pharmaceutical industry is by far the biggest lobbying group in this country, pouring over a quarter billion dollars into the hands of politicians over the last decade. They spend another 3/4 billion on sales – advertising and sales reps. In 2007, the pharmaceutical company, Perdue, was fined by the feds $634.5 million for influencing doctors to inappropriately prescribe its opiate OxyContin as well paying out many millions in state lawsuits. But when a company is making over 16 billion a year selling narcotics (2016), such fines are considered just the price of doing business.
Another example of predatory pricing by the pharmaceutical companies is Narcan. This is the antidote to narcotic overdose. In the last ten years the price of this life saving drug has increased 5 fold.
People may also recall some of the recent instances where pharmaceutical companies, with the help of the FDA and patent laws, were able to gouge the public with drugs that have been inexpensive for years. A few years ago the Epi-pen, a life saving remedy for bee sting anaphylaxis abruptly went up in price to $600 a dose. This medicine, epinephrine, has been around forever and is dirt cheap. But through multiple acquisitions and patent legal wrangling, Milan pharmaceuticals increased the price of this life saving device from $100 to over $600.
A few years ago Galien Pharmaceutical came out with a drug Harvoni that was over 90% effective for treating hepatitis C. They priced the drug at $1000 a pill but outside of the US it could be bought for $9.00 if you were not American.
Cannabis has been around forever as a medicine. Now that it has been re-discovered, there is an effort to keep it out of the hands of people because its success equals loss of profit to pharmaceutical companies. It is interesting to note that the FDA hasn’t budged on its position on banning cannabis, yet in 1986 it allowed a pharmaceutical company to manufacture and sell synthetic THC labeled “Marinol”. It’s expensive and patients generally don’t like it because it only makes them “high” which is generally an unpleasant experience when not accompanied by the other cannabinoids that smooth the medicinal effect. This superior value of natural cannabis over synthetics is referred to as “the Entourage effect”.
Another peculiar fact is that the Federal Government themselves, who fail to recognize cannabis in any form as a medicine, took out a patent on cannabidiol (CBD) in 2003 because it recognized its unmistakable usefulness on neurodegenerative diseases and it’s near perfect safety profile, yet it continues to keep it classified in a grey area “not really legal” status as a Schedule 1 drug. However, CBD is not psychoactive and is now widely available in health food stores and online. There is presently at least one drug company trying to purify CBD and sell it back to us at great profit while the FDA still tries to prevent access to it via the natural plant, cannabis.
I encourage people to learn more about the benefits of medical cannabis and be aware and resist the back room efforts to limit our rights to use it in its natural form and without government interference.
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If you’re interested, please call 352-601-4200 or email DrBobGoethe@gmail.com – Check out our website: www.compassionclinicflorida.com
Dr. Bob Goethe is a board certified anesthesiologist, with over 40 years of medical experience who is now semi-retired in Citrus County and chooses to support the medical marijuana initiative because he has seen it’s benefits in patients and strongly believes in the cause.