Research conducted on the safety of medical marijuana vs. the safety of 17 drugs that were approved by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) based on the number of deaths caused showed that medical cannabis was the secondary suspect in 279 deaths as against 1,679 deaths where FDA-approved drugs were the secondary suspect.
Researchers collected data for this study from the beginning of January 1997 through the end of June 2005 and the results were compiled in a series of reports. The number of deaths attributed to cannabis use was dramatically lower than the total deaths caused by any of the 17 approved drugs used in the study. Scientists identified these various drugs as the primary suspect in more than 10,000 deaths as compared to zero found in connection with using cannabis.
Researchers chose a dozen of the drugs followed in this study based on the tendency of physicians to choose these medications more often over cannabis use for treatment. Researchers chose the remaining five drugs for the study from a pool of medications based on their familiarity and frequent use by the public. Anti-emetic drugs to eliminate vomiting and nausea represented just one class of drug used in this study. Other medications tracked were antispasmodics for muscle cramp relief and various federally approved antipsychotic medications. Other medications included in this research were substances prescribed for depression, pain, Attention Deficit Disorder, erectile dysfunction and narcolepsy.
When reporting the deaths, the FDA also listed the full range of adverse effects seen in cases that were not fatal. In some cases, the adverse outcomes were attributed to any dosage of those studied drugs even in instances where nutritional supplements, dietary products, infant formula, medical food or vitro diagnostics were believed to have contributed to or triggered the adverse effect noted.
Adverse Event Reporting System, or AERS, reports were prepared for each drug studied. The FDA collected all the remaining data on a dozen CDs and compiled five printed documents. The reports submitted by the FDA showed that some deaths reported occurred during the time the patient was undergoing a cannabis treatment protocol. The results led to further investigation focused on medical marijuana use and the role of cannabinoids in those associated deaths.