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  • Post Time Posted April 17, 2019
“I feel like a pariah in the Missouri medical community.”

It’s a common refrain from many U.S. physicians who lean towards cannabis as a viable medication for patients.

Based in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, this gastroenterologist with more than 35 years of experience has been increasingly hearing candid stories from patients who suffer from a range of inflammatory bowel conditions. “Many patients were telling me they were happy with its effects, especially how it uplifted their mood,” Dr. Marc Taormina says in an interview.

Dr. Taormina may be persona non grata in the medical industry in his state because he isn’t shy about advocating for cannabis. Now that medical cannabis is legal in Missouri, you would think physicians would’ve come around whole-heartedly to viewing cannabis in a more positive light. Not so fast, he says.

“For physicians to not recognize its benefits…” he says, trailing off, before proffering a more hopeful tone. “It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. takes cannabis off its Schedule I drug status. I think, state-wise, the southern states will be the last holdouts but everyone will legalize it.”

As for cannabis helping patients with IBD-like conditions, the science is there, albeit in drips and drabs. In 2018, an Israeli study found that cannabis improves symptoms of Crohn's disease despite having no effect on gut inflammation. “There are very good grounds to believe that the endocannabinoid system is a potential therapeutic target in Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal diseases,” the lead researcher wrote.1

Dr. Taormina on cannabis and comforting patients
A 2016 study looking at cannabis and IBD wrote, “a significant portion of IBD patients, particularly those with severe disease, use cannabis to relieve symptoms of pain, nausea, and appetite and to improve their overall mood.” They did caution, however, that more human studies were needed before they could fully give their support to prescribing cannabis for IBD patients.2 

Additionally, a study looking at patients with ulcerative colitis concluded that “medical cannabis use was associated with improved clinical disease activity scores and endoscopic improvement.”3

Dr. Taormina sees many positives with cannabis, such as its anti-inflammatory properties that could help those with inflammatory bowel conditions. “I don’t see alot of downside to cannabis, except for those who smoke it, obviously,” he adds.

In fact, many patients beyond Missouri are turning to cannabis. Surveys of cannabis use in IBD patients in the U.S. and Canada found that, “approximately 15% to 20% of patients currently use cannabis, and up to 40% have tried cannabis to relieve IBD symptoms.”4

As noted in that media report, the constitutional amendment approved by Missouri voters lists a few specific ailments that qualify patients for medical cannabis, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and inflammatory bowel diseases. But it also notes physicians can add others, at the discretion of the state health department.5 

References:
  1. "Cannabis improves symptoms of Crohn's disease despite having no effect on gut inflammation" https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-10/sh-cis101518.php
  2. "Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease" https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5193087/
  3. "Use of Medical Cannabis in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease" https://www.gastroenterologyandhepatology.net/archives/october-2018/use-of-medical-cannabis-in-patients-with-inflammatory-bowel-disease/
  4. "Use of Medical Cannabis in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease" https://www.gastroenterologyandhepatology.net/archives/october-2018/use-of-medical-cannabis-in-patients-with-inflammatory-bowel-disease/
  5. "Meet a rare breed: Missouri doctors eager to help patients try medical marijuana" https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/health-care/article221763945.html

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