Only a few cannabis-derived products have been officially approved by the FDA, but the agency remains supportive of demonstrable, fact-based research. In recent years, interest in the potential uses of medical marijuana has skyrocketed. From reducing inflammation and anxiety to stimulating hunger and mitigating chronic pain, cannabis seems potentially well-suited for treating a wide range of health conditions, with initial research showing promising results. So far, the FDA has only approved one drug derived from cannabis and three made with synthetic cannabis. However, the agency is aware of the increased interest in medical marijuana treatments and is open to approving more treatments when scientific research demonstrates the efficacy of these drugs. Medical Marijuana and the FDA In order to be approved for market, all new drugs and treatments require clinical testing and review from the FDA, which works to ensure that drugs meet necessary quality, effectiveness, and safety standards. Drugs and products that have not received approval from the FDA are essentially unregulated, which in the case of medical marijuana means that the potency and purity of the treatment is unknown and possibly inconsistent. So far, the FDA has only approved a few cannabis-based drugs, such as Epidiolex, an oral CBD solution used to treat two rare forms of epilepsy. These drugs are generally considered safe, especially when taken with medical supervision. The agency’s stance regarding the approval of new medical marijuana products is that it supports sound research based in scientific study, and “will continue to work with companies interested in bringing safe, effective, and quality products to market.” That said, the FDA is aware that many patients have unmet medical needs that cannabinoid treatments could potentially address. This has led to the creation of Accelerated Approval, Breakthrough Therapy, Fast Track, and Priority Review programs — initiatives that are intended to assist in the development and approval of new drugs. Furthermore, the FDA has expanded its statutory and regulatory provisions — also known as “compassionate care” provisions — for investigational and experimental treatments. These provisions are relevant for patients whose serious health conditions either do not respond to or cannot be treated with conventional methods. Where Medical Marijuana Research Is Heading In November 2019, the FDA approved a groundbreaking new study on the efficacy and benefits of cannabis for humans. This study is the first of its kind, and has many people excited and curious about where the future of medical marijuana will go. In addition to the conditions mentioned above, there’s some preliminary research that shows that medical cannabis offers some benefits for the following conditions:
- Schizophrenia. Researchers in London have found — in two separate projects — that CBD can help mitigate the psychosis-related symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Studies have shown that medical marijuana can reduce the pain associated with IBD, which is one of the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana treatment in Ohio.
- Cancer. Chemotherapy takes a harsh toll on the body, and the appetite-boosting effects of marijuana help to ensure that patients are getting the nutrients they need. A study in Spain also found that for two patients with aggressive brain cancer, called glioblastoma multiforme, a THC compound destroyed the cancer cells while leaving the healthy cells unharmed. Cannabis has also been used to offset the nausea associated with cancer and AIDS treatment.