By JANELLE CARTER Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The government on Friday eased restrictions on Marinol, a byproduct of marijuana that doctors can prescribe to counter some symptoms of AIDS and side effects of chemotherapy.
Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the capsulized form of Marinol is the ``safe and proper way'' to make a form of marijuana available to the public.
``This action will make Marinol, which is scientifically proven to be safe and effective for medical use, more widely available,'' McCaffrey said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration reclassified Marinol from a ``Schedule 2'' drug to the less restricted ``Schedule 3'' category. This essentially means that instead of being classified with drugs like morphine, Marinol is now classified with more widely used drugs like Codeine.
Marijuana is classified as a ``Schedule 1'' drug, and thus cannot be prescribed by doctors.
The change comes as dozens of states are grappling with the issue of legalized marijuana. Several states, including Oregon and California, have approved the use of marijuana with a doctor's consent.
McCaffrey, who has remained staunchly opposed to those efforts, said Friday's change was the result of ``pure science. There's no politics involved.''
Marinol is the only agent, or cannabinoid, in marijuana that has undergone research and been developed into a prescription drug. First brought onto the market in 1985, Marinol has been used to treat anorexia and weight loss associated with AIDS and nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy.
With the change in classification, Marinol can now be prescribed by doctors with the possibility of five prescription refills in six months. The change also lessens record keeping requirements and eases distribution restrictions on the drug.
Supporters of medical marijuana, however, say patients who use it are able to get the benefits of dozens of other agents in marijuana that are not in Marinol.
Marinol supporters have maintained that doctors are able to prescribe a specific dosage of the drug, something they cannot determine with marijuana use. The prescribed drug also does not pose the added concern of smoking and potential lung damage, Marinol advocates have said.
Clinical Pharmacology of Marinol
Dronabinol-induced sympathomimetic activity may result in tachycardia
and/or conjunctival injection.
Its effects on blood pressure are inconsistent, but occasional subjects have experienced orthostatic
hypotension and/or syncope upon abrupt standing.
Dronabinol also demonstrates reversible effects on appetite, mood, cognition,
memory, and perception.
These phenomena appear to be dose-related, increasing in frequency with higher dosages, and subject to
great interpatient variability.
After oral administration, dronabinol has an onset of action of approximately
0.5 to 1 hours and peak
effect at 2 to 4 hours. Duration of action for psychoactive effects is 4 to 6 hours, but the appetite
stimulant effect of dronabinol may continue for 24 hours or longer after administration.