FDA Chief Considers Medical Marijuana as Doctors Raise Concerns

FDA Chief Open to Medical Use of Marijuana

The head of the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expressed openness to the medical use of marijuana, but concerns have been raised by doctors warning that this could pose harm to the public.

In a briefing on Tuesday, FDA Director General Samuel Zacate said that he is “very open” to the use of marijuana for medical purposes, as long as it has been streamlined and does not pose harm to the public. However, he also stated that the issue is still “subject to the wisdom of the legislative [branch].”

Currently, the FDA has the authority to grant hospitals compassionate special permits for using unregistered medical products, including processed medical cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana has been found to have proven medical benefits in particular formulations, and is prescribed to patients undergoing chemotherapy, suffering from wasting syndrome due to AIDS, or experiencing neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis.

However, medical groups led by the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) have opposed the proposed measures to legalize cannabis for any use other than those with medical value approved by the FDA, warning that “there is a clear trend towards the harmful effects that outweigh the purported benefits.” They also cautioned against the potential negative impacts on brain development due to prenatal cannabis exposure and the increased vulnerability of young people to developing dependency on the substance.

In response, the proposed legislation aims to create a Medical Cannabis Office under the Department of Health, which will grant accreditation to doctors and other licenses for the medical use of cannabis. However, public health reform advocate Tony Leachon has questioned adding the responsibility to the DOH, stating that “The Department of Health is so overloaded with work. Why would you bring that to the DOH?”

As the debate continues, it is important to note that Thailand is set to urgently move a bill to ban the recreational use of cannabis after the kingdom decriminalized the substance in 2022.

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