Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sanjay Gupta’s Evolution on Medical Marijuana Sparks Debate

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Sunday, August 11th CNN’s medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosted a documentary “Weed” in which he refuted his previous stand on the medicinal value of marijuana. For 70 years there has been a campaign of fear, smear and misinformation about marijuana labeling it as dangerous drug with no medicinal value.

 There has been a 40 year battle to remove marijuana from Schedule I classification of the Controlled Substance Act. Schedule I of the CSA lists drugs that have a high potential for abuse, are dangerous and have no medicinal value, a classification that holds marijuana more dangerous than cocaine, morphine, or methamphetamine; all listed in Schedule II of the CSA with accepted medical uses.

Under Federal Law only FDA-approved drugs are allowed to be prescribed by a physician. Marijuana is not FDA-approved. But let’s look at some FDA approved drugs such as Vioxx. Vioxx is an anti-inflammatory used primarily to treat arthritis. Over $100 million was spent to market the drug using spokespersons such as Olympians Bruce Jenner and Dorothy Hamill.

Because of the aggressive marketing campaign it was widely known to the public and prescribed by physicians for over a million people. Vioxx was pulled from the market after it was shown to double the risk for heart attack or stroke. The FDA estimates that Vioxx was responsible for 139,000 heart attacks and about 30,000 deaths from heart attacks and strokes.

And who could forget Fen-phen the diet drug. An advisory committee was convened by the FDA to discuss and debate the drug’s safety. Redux or Fen-phen was already on the European market when it was being considered for approval in the U.S. An International Primary Pulmonary Hypertension study linked the drug to causing Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH).  PPH is a disease that thickens the capillaries in the lungs making it difficult to breathe, is fatal and incurable.

In spite of the warnings of the fatal, incurable disease caused in Europe and expert testimony from doctors, the FDA approved the drug for use in the United States in April 1996. Three months after the introduction of Redux, through a $53 million dollar advertising campaign, doctors were writing 85,000 prescriptions a week.

The drug was not only easily obtained through prescriptions, but was also available in weight-loss clinics and over the internet. Weight-loss clinics sprung up all over California and the US for the sole purpose of dispensing Fen-phen. The Wall Street Journal projected Redux profits could gross $1 billion for the company.

By August of 1997 an article in the New England Journal of Medicine by Mayo Clinic Dr. Heidi Connelly cited cases of treating women with PPH and heart valve abnormalities related to the use of Fen-phen. By September 1, 2003 Forbes reported Wyeth had paid $13 billion in claims related to the drug and by October 2003 The New York Times reported only a third of the 37,000 claims were addressed.

Darvocet and Darvon were the most popular pain killers in the U.S. until their recall in 2010. Although they were recalled in the U.K. in 2005 due to increased risk of suicide and overdose, the FDA allowed the sale of Darvocet and Darvon in the U.S. until a lawsuit was brought against the FDA in 2008. Darvon and Darvocet were linked to over 2,110 deaths between 1981 and 1999.

 Avandia a prescription drug used to control blood sugar in type 2 diabetes was banned in Europe in 2010 due to the increased risk of heart attack. The Glaxo-Smith-Kline drug is still available in the U.S. The FDA confirmed studies that Avandia increases risk of heart attack by 43% and cardiac related deaths by 64%.

In March, 2001 a class action lawsuit was filed by Parker and Waichman against manufactures of vaccines containing Thimerosal. Thimerosal is a mercury based preservative in vaccines that was FDA approved. According to medical researchers, Thimerosal is more toxic than mercury and no amount of Thimerosal is safe.

Just this year in July 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that drug companies are exempt from lawsuits. Going forward 80 percent of all drugs are exempt from legal liability.  The decision was based on the lawsuit Karen Bartlett vs. Mutual Pharmaceutical Company. In 2004 Karen Bartlett was prescribed a generic anti-inflammatory drug Sulindac for shoulder pain. A lower court awarded her $21 million after she suffered from “toxic epidermal necrolysis” causing burns and flesh eating.

Last month the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the lower courts verdict and award. The justices cited all generic drugs and their manufactures, 80% of all drugs consumed in the U.S. are exempt from liability for side effects, mislabeling or virtually any other negative reactions caused by their drugs. The Court ruled that the FDA has ultimate authority over pharmaceuticals in the US and if the FDA says a drug is safe that takes precedence.

It has been a long held belief by the DEA that there are no "adequate and well-controlled studies" proving marijuana's efficacy. And yet, those kinds of studies have been done and are published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Medical marijuana is legal in 18 states and recreational use is legal in 2.

While I’m pleased that Dr. Sanjay Gupta has offered his mea culpa for his role in the misinformation, disinformation and fear driven campaign against medicinal marijuana, as a medical doctor you took the Hippocratic oath. Part of the oath is “is swearing to practice medicine honestly.”

Why not endorse the use of “God’s natural herb” to alleviate the pain and suffering caused by man-made drugs for those survivors who haven’t been killed by the drugs approved by the FDA merely for profit. As a medical doctor, is it not your duty to condemn the decision of the five Supreme Court justices who have exempted drug companies from any legal liability for death, disfigurement and harm of their faulty, mislabeled products to ensure Wall Street profits?

Doctor Gupta you owe the American people more than an apology, you need to condemn exemption for liability for the manufacturers of these horrific man-made drugs and advocate for God’s natural cure, medicinal marijuana.

By Patricia Baeten

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