Bill Would Authorize Unapproved Treatments

TMA Testimony by Sara G. Austin, MD

House Public Health Committee
Texas Medical Association Testimony 
House Bill 892 by Rep. Stephanie Klick

April 28, 2015

I am Dr. Sara G. Austin, and am here representing the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Pediatric Society, and the Texas Neurological Society, on behalf of our 48,000-plus physician and medical student members and the millions of Texans that we serve. I am here to offer testimony in respectful opposition to House Bill 892 by Rep. Stephanie Klick. I am a neurologist practicing here in Austin and I am a member of TMA’s Council on Legislation. While we recognize the growing interest of some of our patients and our physicians in the potential use of marijuana to treat the severe symptoms of some chronic conditions, we are concerned about the precedent set by state authorization of a treatment that has not been approved through the current, nationally accepted methods for treatment guidelines that all physicians follow. 

Having completed a review of the current research and clinical indications of marijuana and its potential risks and therapeutic benefits, our members agree that there is a lack of research on marijuana and marijuana compounds to inform physicians properly on their medical effects for various medical conditions. This research is critical for physicians to be able to inform patients accurately on whether marijuana is an effective treatment, which conditions it may effectively treat, the appropriate dosing levels for different patients including children, any potential side effects, and if these products are more beneficial than other approved medications that have less threat of substance abuse and addiction. 

We recognize that there is promising but limited information that some forms of marijuana compounds may help address some symptoms of certain neurological diseases. But the use of cannabinoid oils for the treatment of intractable epilepsy and other neurologic disorders among children and adults has not been widely studied in the United States. Currently available information is largely anecdotal. Those anecdotes are not a substitute for science-based guidelines developed from federally regulated, scientific, or investigational trials that control for the type, potency, and quality of products used, and that assess the benefits and risks for different patients and medical conditions. This is the minimum information that is expected for all other treatments and regimens prescribed to patients. Anecdotal information is not sufficient to help physicians decide which medications and treatments we prescribe for our patients.

TMA and TPS oppose the unregulated sale and recreational use of marijuana, but we are encouraging the U.S. Congress to authorize additional research on marijuana and related cannabinoids and formulations such as cannabinoid oils for their potential medical use. Such research will help more fully delineate these products’ possible beneficial uses, particularly for seriously ill patients who may benefit from alternative treatments. 

Physicians believe that some of our patients, particularly those suffering with debilitating symptoms such as those associated with intractable epilepsy, are already using or seeking access to cannabinoid oils and other products. We affirm our right to have a free exchange of information with them on the effects and use of marijuana as well as other unapproved complementary therapies.

While physicians have little information on the clinical efficacy and safety of cannabinoid oils, we look forward to working with Representative Klick and the members of the House Public Health Committee as you consider this and other legislation related to this issue. 

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