Doctors unconvinced on value of medical marijuana

Doctors unconvinced on value of medical marijuana

CHAMPAIGN — Medical marijuana for their patients?

One area doctor says flat-out no. Another sees the potential for misuse.

Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana Thursday, but the law allowing people with certain serious diseases — among them cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Parkinson's and HIV — to buy limited amounts for treatment won't take effect until Jan. 1.

Medical marijuana patients will need to have an established relationship with a doctor to approve their use. And they won't get that approval from Dr. David Hagan, a family medicine physician in Gibson City.

"I've never prescribed medical marijuana and I never plan to," Hagan said Friday. "I don't recall a patient in 30 years that I have not been able to control with conventional therapies."

Hagan said he's never been interested in prescribing Marinol, the FDA-approved anti-nausea pill containing synthetic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. He's not a fan of prescribing the real stuff, either.

"I think marijuana is not as harmless as its proponents put it out to be," Hagan says.

Consider whether you want your cab driver, or the person cooking your food in a restaurant, to be using medical marijuana, he says.

"I am hopeful that the strict regulations (in Illinois' medical marijuana law) will prevent diversion and inappropriate use on a slippery slope that we have seen in other states," he said.

Dr. James Hildebrandt, vice president of medical affairs for the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System, Mattoon, says marijuana has some benefit in "fairly narrow circumstances."

"There is some evidence that marijuana works fairly well for nausea, especially chemotherapy-induced nausea, but it doesn't work as well as some of the anti-nausea medications we already have," he said.

However, he adds, all patients tolerate medications differently, so marijuana may work for some patients.

As a pain reliever, marijuana isn't as good as some drugs already available, Hildebrandt said, but it can have some advantage for people in chronic pain who are already taking opiod medications.

"It's not a very strong analgesic by itself," he said.

"Honestly, I think that to me, for what we know about it now, its role would be best for people who have failed traditional treatment and add it on as an adjunct," Hildebrandt said. "That would be the most sensible way to use it."

Still, he says, one major problem for doctors is they have yet to see strong evidence about marijuana as a treatment.

"There's a lot we don't know about how useful a drug it is," he says.

Other reservations for Hildebrandt: He sees the potential for misuse, and, like all prescription medications, the possibilities it will fall into the hands of kids.

Youths can gain access to medical marijuana for recreational use the same way they currently gain access to their parents' medications, he said.

"People are going to be going to clinics, saying, 'My back hurts,' and saying, 'I can't take this, can I have some marijuana?'" he predicts. "People will make money setting up shop catering to that kind of thing. Marijuana is already prevalent in our society. I think it's a drug that doesn't have a lot of benefit for anything. It has a small niche in medicine, but it's going to be used out of proportion because it's a drug that a lot of people find enjoyable."

The Carle Physician Group and Christie Clinic declined to participate in interviews on Illinois' new medical marijuana law.

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ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 05, 2013 at 7:08 am
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Well it's hard to argue with the science behind this story. I mean, just look at the sample size.

twolegsgood wrote on August 05, 2013 at 8:08 am

this "doctor" clearly has no clue what he's talking about. How about you get something factual to back up your opinions?

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 05, 2013 at 10:08 am
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In a town with two major hospitals and a medical school; if you have to drive 40 minutes to find a doctor who fits the desired profile ...


Maybe just hold the story until you can get a few more sources to verify.

Deb Pressey wrote on August 06, 2013 at 9:08 am

Thank you for your comments. I made every effort  to contact a wide variety of physician sources. Unfortunately, as the story stated, Carle and Christie Clinic declined to participate.  Provena United Samaritans in Danville also said no to voicing an opinion, as did some of the independent practitioners I called.   I also never got a call back from the Danville Polyclinic, and an effort to find a local physician through the UI med school was unsuccessful. 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 06, 2013 at 11:08 pm
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Yes, I read that sentence.

 If you want to defend your reportage, ask Mike Howie to change the headline and make an apology to the community. Ask John Beck for a correction in the print edition.

The column was fine as a column. It was bad as news.  It was indefensible as journalism.

Political Observer wrote on August 07, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Yeah, I'm thinking a much better title might be something like, "One or Two Doctors Unconvinced on the Value of Medical Marijuana!"

Bulldogmojo wrote on August 07, 2013 at 10:08 am

I just think it would have been better to have interviewed rheumatologists who see patients across the spectrum of autoimmune disorders and chronic systemic problems.

Bulldogmojo wrote on August 05, 2013 at 8:08 am

"One area doctor says flat-out no. Another sees the potential for misuse."

Translation: Pill pushing doctors don't want their co-conspirators in big pharma to lose out on profits because of patients making informed decisions and managing their own care.


jamesbell wrote on August 05, 2013 at 9:08 am

The doctors in the report are being rewared by the Big Phara for prescribing thier drugs. Let's take a look at one of the most popular prescribed drugs these drs. are handing out.

"Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality...Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death...In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity...In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume...Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." - DEA Administrative Law Judge, FL Young, 1988

Local Yocal wrote on August 05, 2013 at 10:08 am
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The article should be re-titled: "News-Gazette unconvinced on value of medical marijuana- and will make up anything to pursuade readers."

Charles Chapin wrote on August 05, 2013 at 10:08 am

Oh, come now. You're all getting a little carried away. Talk about reefer madness.

In fact, almost no major medical association endorses the use of reefer for pain medication. Big pharma doesn't control EVERYONE. They don't endorse whiskey either -- even though it, too, can help with pain sometimes. I suspect the paper had to go 40 miles to find  doctors who weren't hidden behind a wall of PR flacks who wouldn't let them talk about anything that might be controversial.

I'm guessing most of you so wildly in favor of medical use don't actually have any medical need. You just see this as a step toward complete legalization of what you believe (erroneously) to be a harmless intoxicant.

And make no mistake, as soon as smoking dope is sufficiently established as a medicine, big pharma will take control of it, too. Shortly thereafter, RJ Reyolds will be marketing all the recreational reefer, and you'll be paying about $2 tax on every joint. That stuff growing on your backyard will still be illegal.









Seriously. wrote on August 05, 2013 at 11:08 am

Well no, I'm not a dope smoker and I don't grow any in my back yard. I also don't see any "intoxicant" as harmless. Alcohol has a great number of side effects that make medical use unlikely to be helpful - blood thinning, dehydration, liver damage, etc. Medical marijuana shouldn't be used for any and all illnesses. It should be used for people who are suffering...for whom an "intoxicant" is a blessing and a needed relief. If nothing else, the delivery method is immediate and effective. Patches and suppositories often don't provide enough relief and don't work very quickly. IV therapy is expensive and difficult to receive outpatient. 

And make no mistake, if they ever legalize weed over the counter, the use will be equally as governed - complete with taxes, fines for misuse, regulations in the workplace, etc. Good.

As for "no major association" endorsing medical marijuana, you'd be incorrect. This is the best shortlist I can find. I took out many of the International organizations to avoid the "Oh, what the heck do they know in the Netherlands, anyway!" argument. Though...they seem to know something more about providing healthcare than we do. I also removed individual endorsements. Enjoy.

AIDS Action Council
AIDS Treatment News
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Medical Student Association
American Nurses Association
American Preventive Medical Association
American Public Health Association
American Society of Addiction Medicine
Arthritis Research Campaign (United Kingdom)
British House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology
British House of Lords Select Committee On Science and Technology (Second Report)
British Medical Association
Canadian AIDS Society
Canadian Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs
French Ministry of Health
Health Canada
Kaiser Permanente
Lymphoma Foundation of America
The Montel Williams MS Foundation
Multiple Sclerosis Society (Canada)
The Multiple Sclerosis Society (United Kingdom)
National Academy of Sciences Institute Of Medicine (IOM)
National Association for Public Health Policy
National Nurses Society on Addictions
New England Journal of Medicine

kiel wrote on August 05, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Well done! As for doctors who cite "lack of evidence," I would also point out that the US has baned all research on medical marijuana for decades, only recently lossening restrictions somewhat. Pretty hard to research the issue and establish any evidence--one way or the other--with the penalty of prison hanging over your head.

Local Yocal wrote on August 07, 2013 at 9:08 am
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You can thank former IL State Legislator Rick Winkel (R) for the ban on research into cannibus. In 1995, Winky co-sponsored a bill that prohibited the U of I from researching hemp- even though the research to be done was going to be on THC-less plants, not the kind that is smoked recreationally. Winkel justified his actions with, "I just think it sends the wrong message to tell kids not to use drugs and then allow the university to study the stuff." [paraphrase]

Political Observer wrote on August 07, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Hmmm. It sounds like the News-Gazette should have interviewed asleep-at-the-wheel Rick Van Winkel for this article!...Then they could have titled it, "One or Two Doctors and High U of I Official Unconvinced on the Value of Medical Marijuana!"

ahowie wrote on August 05, 2013 at 10:08 am

This is just silly. Just because a small town dr. that watched Reefer Madness once doesn't agree with it doesn't mean it isn't proven to relieve symptoms for multiple diseases. My brother has severe Tourette's (one of the approved diseases on the list) and is able to function on such a better level with marijuana while other 'convential' meds don't seem to help at all or cause other symptoms far worse.

I think IL has restricted the uses more than most states and has a list of diseases that patients will GREATLY benefit from its use. I hope people in Gibson City can find a doctor to support their needs.

By the way, I wouldn't want someone high on ANYTHING to be driving. Including anti-anxiety and depressents but doctors don't seem to have any problems prescribing those without this excuse.

knowa wrote on August 05, 2013 at 10:08 am

This Doctor might want to Google the 1936 American Pharmacopioea on the 17 pages of cannabis medicines  later removed.  Florida is the most pivital and most in ned of medical Cannabis.  If you can help.

Seriously. wrote on August 05, 2013 at 10:08 am

After having seen him personally on 2 separate occasions and having been party to his "treatment plan" for members of my extended family, I'm unconvinced that Dr. Hagan does anything other than barely practice at medicine. Each time, we researched other physicians and found actual solutions for the problems at hand after he dismissed the complaints. The diagnosed "muscle pain" that one family member complained about for TWO MONTHS? Metastasis.

I'm not surprised he's closed to anything other than drug pushing. Remaining closed-minded to potential causes and additional treatment therapies just punishes the patient for your own ignorance and narcissism.

How many MDs did the NG have to call to find someone willing to discuss this issue? Did they both finish with something like, "the damn hippies"?

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 05, 2013 at 7:08 pm
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According to the Ford County Judici site, Dr. Hagan has been the defendant/respondent in four lawsuits from 1997 to 2011.


He's been named in only one Champaign County suit since 1992., per cccircuitclerk.

Orbiter wrote on August 05, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Wow, more evidence of the bias of the News-Gazette.  Headline is a huge generalization, should be more specific: "Two rural doctors unconvinced..."


Why did the NG not mention the several MDs statewide that heartily favor MM? Of course there is a conservative conspiracy to smear and discredit any physician who speaks openly on the issue, other than to condemn MM:


And even taxed and regulated, MM is far less expensive than the pills, which run upwards of a thousand dollars each dose.  No wonder medical insurance is so unaffordable.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 05, 2013 at 6:08 pm
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Correct: The headline is misleading.


The story is of little value because it represents the opinion of one person, and the relativism of another. But the headline implies a consensus, or majority of the medical community 

Dr Foulkes wrote on August 05, 2013 at 2:08 pm
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I think a growing consensus of opinion reflected in 20 states now is that this mild intoxicant with a 2-3 hour period of effect is safer than alcohol and certainly does not meet a level of concern that has led to 10's of thousands of arrests last year. The medical utility of the many canabinoids is evolving and at present the evidence is strongly pointing to postive benefits with minimal negative ones. In my field of Ophthalmology the evidence was there but weak that eye pressure lowering was a benefit in Glaucoma. The effect was brief and small. Really not impressive. However anectdodally there may have been a slowing of progression of the disease that was not consistent with the pressure effect. New evidence points to a unique mechanism which may slow or stop cell death in nerves which we call "neuroprotection". Indeed this may expand to Alzhiemers disease as well. Study after study, done without government support, as this is currently prohibited, point to the cellular protection canabinoids. Interestingly this may be afforded by the reduction products of the THC and may not be related to the "high". Of course doctors will be skeptical as we should be of heresay and anecdotal reports. This aritcle might be better served by speaking to experts in the field or those interested in this evolving understanding of canabinoids. I applaud Governor Quinn and the legistaltors of Illinois for begining the process of decriminalizing this substance and I will be looking carefully for the possible medical benefits in my field.

Lostinspace wrote on August 05, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Meanwhile, people are walking around drugged out of their gourd.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think a doctor is *required* to prescribe any specific medication.

Local Yocal wrote on August 05, 2013 at 10:08 pm
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In light of the fact that alcohol is involved in about 80% of the aggravated batteries, and 80% of the sexual assaults (when the U of I police department tracked such incidents) and tobacco is recognized as the no. 1 cause of preventable death at over 500,000 Americans a year; the answer is yes, we are on our way to legalization, and should be.

The main hindrance to such legalization is the lack of a field test for current intoxication. Not a test for use within the last 30 days, but use within the last 12 hours. Once that is widely distributed to every profession that holds the public trust and safety, then we can safely legalize with employers having the full right to terminate employees who are baked while, for examples, on the job as a nurse, doctor, lawyer, taxi driver, pilot, bus driver, teacher, ect. Perhaps we can make it still illegal to show up for work in those types of professions stoned. Testing for current intoxication is key.

Of course the real hindrance to sanity and lessoning the tax burden is actually the prison and security industries who need The Endless Drug War for job security and control over minority populations. Lobbyists for the FOP and the AFSCME prison guards have a seat in Springfield right next to Speaker Madigan. And the 'ol News-Gazette apparently has some sort of horse in this race by the bizarre stance it has adopted during this debate.

For more information:

Political Observer wrote on August 07, 2013 at 1:08 pm

The News-Gazette's horse in this race is that they regularly prepare a whole stable-full of muck they can toss against a Democratic Governor (or, more generally, a Democratic Candidate for any office), so they can see quite a while before an election  what sticks and what is most effective in stinking the place up.  In this instance, they may want to claim, "Doctors Are Unconvinced on the Value of Medical Marijuana!" but  yet that "Freakin' Hippy Governor Went Ahead and Signed the Bill to Legalize Marijuana Anyway!"  (Believe it or not, the Reefer Madness Message still resonates pretty strongly out in Rodney Davis Country among the people who love guns and hate healthcare, and who'll treasure forever the back-issues of the Ron Paul newsletter that were ghost-written by Lew Rockwell.)

spangwurfelt wrote on August 07, 2013 at 7:08 pm

"Believe it or not, the Reefer Madness Message still resonates pretty strongly out in Rodney Davis Country among the people who love guns and hate healthcare,"

... and would rather their dads didn't know they smoke pot all the time.

Deb Pressey wrote on August 08, 2013 at 4:08 pm

While many doctors weren't willing to comment, or their organizations wouldn't allow them to, I  believed (and still do) that it was worthwhile to publish the comments and opinions of the two doctors who were actually willing to make their opinions on this topic public.

Local Yocal wrote on August 08, 2013 at 9:08 pm
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The problem is the packaging the paper put this small bit of research into. The headline made it sound like "Nearly all doctors question medical marijuana's value." The two doctors willing to go forward in the press provide little credibility and superstitious reasoning into their opinions.

Are you going to grab quotes from two doctors cited in the many reputable medical organizations above who support medical marijuana, or maybe some quotes from doctors already prescribing in other states? If the answer is no, that's the bias readers are growing tired of. Why wouldn't two opinions in favor also be worthwhile?

Deb Pressey wrote on August 09, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Those reputable medical organizations to which you are referring have made their views known.  In this story, we were looking for something our readers haven't yet seen,  which is the opinions of the doctors actually treating them in the local area. I'd hoped to get a much broader sampling than two, of course, but as I said in an earlier comment: If two were willing to say what they think, why should their views be excluded? 



ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 09, 2013 at 6:08 pm
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After a few days to contemplate this long list of objections, you seem unwilling to acknowedge that this piece  


  1.  is better filed as opinion than news
  2.  features a misleading headline


Does that answer your question?