Medical Marijuana Movement Gets Shot in the Arm

Proponents of medicinal marijuana got a little more ammunition earlier this year according to a blogger on Scienceblogs.
However, some have claimed that cannabinoids cure everything from glaucoma to gallbladder, from anorexia to adenoids, from colon cancer to COPD, from hairlessness to hangnails.

Okay, I might have exaggerated a little at the end. Despite my jesting, many medicinal marijuana supporters are quick to point out all the studies that support their foregone conclusion—that marijuana is good. The blogger mentioned above is a little more conservative in his praise of a recent study concerning the cannabinoids extracted from marijuana’s effects on seizures in children with Dravet syndrome.

David Gorski, the science blogger, posted in May about a study about Dravet and “mary jane” that he came across. He spent some time in his blog discussing his experience with medical marijuana proponents and the similar arguments they use to the alternative medicine crowd. There is some significant overlay on that Venn diagram, should you care to construct it.

In his post, Gorski also spends a good amount of time discussing how the study was constructed, even including a flow chart. The thing to remember here is how he is encouraged by many of the results. It seems that there was a reduction in the frequency of seizures to those in the study who added this cannabinoid to their already prescribed anti-seizure medication. More encouraging is the fact that the results were more pronounced than in the placebo baseline.

However, Gorski did point out several times when the study seemed to be exaggerating the significance of certain results. In particular, 5% of those in the test group experienced complete remission, i.e. no seizures, during the 14-week study. This is quite remarkable, but that result was not statistically significant given the parameters of the study. This means those 5% may be outliers that cannot or will not be reproduced in future studies.

Needless to say, those who favor the use of marijuana as medicine will now have another study to cite. It will be a stronger piece of evidence if it can be reproduced. Given the results, though, the effects of this cannabinoid on drug resistant seizures associated with Dravet syndrome will certainly be studied further.

Read Gorski’s complete blog post by clicking here.

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