Pharmaceutical VS Medical Marijuana

Why does Big Pharma Hate Marijuana?

by December, HazeNation Magazine Volume #3

The pharmaceutical industry is booming here in the United States, a fact that many aging citizens know all too well. A trip to your primary care physicians office more often than not results in a prescription for one of the thousands of medications created and distributed by this industry. While a trip to your local pharmacy may also drain your bank account. Many doctors are encouraged, by means of monetary influence, to prescribe one drug on top of another to treat or mask the symptoms from which you suffer. This misleading and often dangerous practice of over-prescribing has taken thousands of lives and led to many cases of addiction, possibly too many to count. Sitting high atop their approximate $250 Billion dollar (yes, that’s a B) empire, Big Pharma is comfortably the most profitable industry in the world. If Big Pharma were really in the business to cure the patients they treat, why do they hate marijuana?

Cannabis used medicinally does have several well-documented beneficial effects. Among these are: the amelioration of nausea and vomiting, stimulation of hunger in chemotherapy and AIDS patients,
lowered intraocular eye pressure (shown to be effective for treating glaucoma), as well as general analgesic effects (pain relief). It is no surprise that the proliferation of medical marijuana poses
a threat to the pharmaceutical industry, as many of the common ailments treated by pharmaceuticals can be managed with a natural alternative, a easily grown weed no less. When 69.9 million people
in the United States who have Arthritis (reported by the Center for Disease Control) turn to a plant they can easily grow in their own backyard with little to no side effects-sans criminal prosecution- Big Pharma finds itself with a worthy opponent.

As it stands, not only do we have a multi-billion dollar industry that may be harming the general population by encouraging excessive use of synthetic medications (whose side effects are plentiful) but one that is also ignoring the glaringly obvious scientific research behind cannabis simply because it has not yet found a way to profit off of the plant. The first attempt to profit from synthetically produced cannabis also represents the most apparent failure from the industry to do so. Marinol (also known as Dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC) has been introduced to treat the same conditions as marijuana, with far less beneficial properties. It is not only ineffective (being given the title as “the little synthetic that couldn’t) but it is also far more dangerous than its natural predecessor.

Mark Kleiman, director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at UCLA’s School of Public Affairs said of Marinol, “It wasn’t any fun and made the user feel bad, so it could be approved without any fear
that it would penetrate the recreational market, and then be used as a club with which to beat back the advocates of whole cannabis as a medicine.” The pharmaceutical synthetic form of marijuana
(marinol) lacks efficacy, while making the user feel such adverse effects as feelings of anxiety, abnormal thinking, detachment, paranoia, and even psychosis. That is if you get over the stomach
aches,vomiting, dizziness, nausea, vision changes, and headaches commonly associated with its use.
Pharmaceuticals, like Marinol, are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug that will die as a result of drug-induced toxicity. Determining the LD-50 for cannabis has proven difficult for many researchers. Simply stated, they have been unable to give test subjects enough cannabis to induce death.

At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman’s terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to
40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response. Much of the medical marijuana discussion has focused on the safety of marijuana compared to the safety of FDA approved drugs. On June 24, 2005, ProCon.org sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to find the number of deaths caused by marijuana compared to the number of deaths caused by 17 commonly prescribed FDA-approved drugs. Twelve of these FDA-approved drugs were chosen because they are commonly prescribed in place of medical marijuana, while the remaining five FDA-approved drugs were randomly selected because they are widely used and recognized by the general public.

The most obvious concern when dealing with drug safety is the possibility of lethal side effects, e.g. can the particular drug cause death? Nearly all substances have toxic or potentially lethal effects, but marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive recorded medical literature describing a proven and documented cannabis-induced fatality. Did you get that, not one
fatality.

In most cases, Medical marijuana could have been prescribed in place of far more dangerous and often lethal medications, but was not. The ethical question stands. Is Big Pharma lobbying to keep Medical marijuana out of the hands of patients because it is a dangerous and addictive drug, or because it is dangerous to the pharmaceutical industry itself?

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