Doctors back medical marijuana bill
A group of doctors, including former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez-Tan, has come out to back the passage of a bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana, calling on opposing colleagues to show more compassion for patients who could benefit from new cannabis research.
In a press briefing held by the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society in San Juan City on Wednesday, Dr. Jorge Ignacio, chair of the Philippine General Hospital’s Cancer Institute, appealed to his colleagues, especially those who were against the House measure, to “have mercy” and realize that a lot of cancer and epileptic patients and their families are waiting for an alternative medicine that can help alleviate the patient’s condition.
Ignacio challenged the heads of medical societies who expressed last week their opposition to the bill to “leave [their] comfort zones” and “old perception” of marijuana. He pointed out that the science on cannabis has “advanced to the stage where the active components cannabinoids (medical) have been identified and separated from the tetrahydrocannabinol (recreational) component.”
Ignacio was joined Wednesday by Likhaan Center for Women’s Health executive director Dr. Junice Melgar, internist-cardiologist Dr. Fe Jarencio, Unihealth’s Dr. Gem Mutia and Ang Nars party-list Rep. Leah Paquiz.
Last week, 11 medical groups, including the Philippine Medical Association, expressed their opposition to Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III’s bill, saying they feared the possibility of the drug being abused once the public is given wide access to it.
To allay fears that medical marijuana may be abused, Ignacio proposed a “well-controlled clinical research,” where patients would be “registered” and a “principal investigator who is a specialist in every illness will be assigned.” Through this, Ignacio said they would be able to gather data which would “provide evidence of the benefits of medical marijuana.”
He made an emotional pitch as well, recalling the experience of his 28-year-old cancer patient who cursed the heavens for the pain he felt on his spine. Ignacio also noted that every time a child convulses, “brain neurons die off” affecting a child’s cognitive development.
Ignacio explained that cannabinoids “help suppress pain especially in terminally ill patients and those with seizures.” It “calms the brain,” he added.
Joining the fray, Galvez-Tan issued his own statement, saying House Bill 4477 was a “long overdue” piece of legislation.
Galvez-Tan also allayed fears of the drug being abused. He quoted a 1995 review prepared for the World Health Organization which noted “there are no recorded cases of overdose fatalities attributed to cannabis” and that the estimated lethal overdose for humans extrapolated from animal studies was so high that it could not be achieved by users.
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