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letters | WRAPPING OUR HEADS AROUND MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW

Medical? Not without being held to stricter standards

RE “Medical marijuana law takes form” (Page A1, Feb. 6): The public is outraged when a prescription medication thought to be safer and more effective than other options is found to have harmful effects. (One such example is Vioxx, a pain reliever that was associated with small increases in heart attacks among people with heart disease.) Yet marijuana is supported as therapeutic, and called “medical,” without any placebo-controlled clinical trials that would tell us the benefits and risks.

It won’t be prescribed by doctors — doctors are to “certify” patients to get it — or dispensed by pharmacists. The Food and Drug Administration won’t be able to monitor risks the same way it does for other medications. Let’s face it — it isn’t medical; or, if it is, it has somehow escaped the usual scrutiny.

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Although it is possible that the benefits outweigh risks for some, we don’t know that, and surveys have found that in other states, many patients are young men suffering from substance use disorders, not just the elderly in pain or people with multiple sclerosis or glaucoma.

What is the justification for so-called medical marijuana’s not being subject to the same standards as aspirin, Claritin, Lipitor, and other medications? Patients deserve no less.

Dr. Richard Saitz

Boston

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