The AOA supports a review of the classification of cannabis to facilitate advancement in clinical, public health, patient safety and health policy research, according to a resolution approved by the AOA House of Delegates.
The resolution also encourages the National Institutes of Health to support development of clinical research studies. The federal agency funded approximately $140 million in grants for cannabinoid research in fiscal year 2017, significantly less than the allocation for similar research of opiates and benzodiazepines. In fiscal year 2018, the NIH nearly doubled funding for research on opioid misuse/addiction and pain to $1.1 billion, yet the restrictions on cannabis medical research remain.
Thirty states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to legalize medical cannabis usage when recommended by a physician. Despite this, as a Schedule I controlled substance, cannabis use in clinical trials requires special licensure and approval from the FDA, DEA and NIDA, obstacles other pharmaceuticals do not undergo.
“As a growing number of states change laws to facilitate the use of medical cannabis, it is important that we have a strong foundation of research that can support evidence-based policies,” said AOA President William S. Mayo, DO. “Given the proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms, reclassification would reduce barriers and increase our understanding of how to safely and effectively use cannabinoid drugs for our patients, many of whom do not respond to other treatments.”
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s publication, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, states there is “conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for treatment for chronic pain in adults, antiemetic in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms.”
The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 defines a Schedule I substance as having no currently accepted medical use in treatment, yet under the FDA Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program, federally regulated medical cannabis is distributed to patients with “serious diseases and health issues for their lifetime.”
“This new policy is recognition of an evolving landscape and the need to support evidence-based policies that serve the needs of our patients,” said Dr. Mayo. “We call on Congress to end the restrictions placed on medical cannabis research by appropriately reclassifying the drug.”
The resolution passed at the AOA’s House of Delegates meeting in Chicago in July.