Many U.S. Oncologists Recommending Medical Marijuana

Medical cannabis and oncologists
Image: DarkoStojanovic

It seems many oncologists in the USA are comfortable discussing and recommending medicinal cannabis, in spite of acknowledging a lack of knowledge.

In what’s been called the first nationally representative survey of its nature, 80% of the 237 oncologists surveyed had discussions regarding medical marijuana with patients and nearly half recommended its use. However, less than 30% of all those surveyed felt they were knowledgeable enough to make the recommendation.

“Medical marijuana is legal in over half the states, with cancer as a qualifying condition in the vast majority of laws, yet the scientific evidence base supporting use of medical marijuana in oncology remains thin,” said one of the researchers; Ilana Braun MD, who is chief of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Division of Adult Psychosocial Oncology.

Dr. Braun is referring to there having been no randomized clinical trials carried out as yet examining whole-plant medical marijuana effects in cancer patients.

There is a clinical trial in the Australian state of New South Wales evaluating if medicinal cannabis products can enhance the quality of life for adults with advanced cancer that involves vaping cannabis flower, however, that is not randomised and is taking place in a palliative care setting.

Another interesting observation from the survey was more than two-thirds (sixty-seven percent) of oncologists felt medical marijuana was an effective adjunct to standard pain treatment. Furthermore, sixty-five percent believed it was equally or more effective than the standard therapies for dealing with side effects of chemotherapy such as lack of appetite and nausea.

The authors also report responses indicated significant differences in attitudes and practices based on non-clinical factors, such as regional location.

The researchers findings have been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Given the survey was run in 2016 but only now being reported, it would be interesting to see the same survey run today. A copy of the survey that oncologists completed can be viewed here (PDF).

In somewhat related news, a study published in March indicated more than two-thirds of  physicians in New York City and surrounding areas believe medical marijuana should be an option available to patients.