Washington, DC — One week after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a baseless, one page press release claiming that marijuana had no medical benefits, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) led a bipartisan group of 24 House members in calling on the agency to explain its reasoning and show scientific proof to support its view.
Hinchey, who has offered an amendment in the House three times that would bar the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients, doctors, and suppliers in states where medical marijuana is legal, and his colleagues said the FDA?s action appears to be politically motivated and defies the results of a White House-commissioned Institute of Medicine (IOM) study from 1999 that detailed the benefits of medical marijuana use.
?Despite the fact that you are responding to a scientific question, your press release failed to provide any scientific expertise. We call on you to show us the purported scientific evidence for the basis of this response. There is no evidence that you have new scientific proof or that you oversaw clinical trials,? Hinchey and his colleagues wrote in a letter sent today to FDA Acting Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. ?It perplexes us that even though the FDA is responsible for protecting public health, the agency has failed to respond adequately to the IOM?s findings seven years after the study?s publication date.?
On April 20, the FDA issued a one-page press release without any documentation to back up its claim that, ?…No sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use.? This statement fails to take into account the IOM report from 1999, which found that marijuana?s active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting, and other symptoms, and should be tested rigorously in clinical trials.
?We saw it with the agency?s decision on the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, and we?re seeing it again with medical marijuana: the FDA is making decisions based on politics instead of science,? Hinchey said. ?The FDA should not be a political entity. Rather, the agency should be in the business of ensuring all Americans have access to safe and effective drugs, including medical marijuana.?
Hinchey and his colleagues noted in their letter to von Eschenbach that the FDA has an Investigational New Drug (IND) Compassionate Access Program, which allowed some Americans with certain medical conditions to apply to the agency to receive marijuana from the federal government. Seven people are currently still in the program and routinely receive marijuana from the federal government. The House members suggest that the IND is an example of how the FDA could allow for the legal use of marijuana without having to go through the series of steps many other drugs go through before getting approved.