2 posts tagged “Risks”

Marijuana/lung cancer: New reporting on potential risks/benefits of cannabis

Posted 4 months ago by

Medical marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) are getting a lot of media coverage — so what’s the latest, as it relates to lung cancer?

See two recent high-profile articles that weigh the possible risks and benefits of cannabis for cancer and respiratory disease. And add your perspective.

(Psst, checkout past PatientsLikeMe write-ups on medical marijuana and CBD for some background.)

Risk factor or treatment?

Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report published an article called “Is Marijuana a Risk Factor or a Treatment Option for Lung Cancer?”

Some key points?

  • Marijuana smoke has many of the same toxins as cigarette smoke, so it could harm the lungs. But the doctors and researchers behind a 2017 report say they have not found conclusive evidence showing that smoking cannabis causes lung cancer (some doctors note that it’s difficult to study because many who’ve smoked marijuana have also smoked tobacco, and there are fewer people who are heavy or habitual cannabis users). However, if it turns out that smoking cannabis isn’t as bad for your health as people first thought, then it comes as no surprise to find out that you can easily buy it online on sites like firethc.
  • The 2017 report did show a “slightly higher chance of having adenocarcinoma if you were a habitual [marijuana] smoker than if you were not or a never-user,” but the evidence was still “weak” and not statistically significant, according to doctors involved in the report.
  • Some research (including this 2018 study in the European Journal of Internal Medicine) has shown that cannabis can have a positive effect on symptoms many people undergoing cancer treatment experience, including pain, nausea, sleep problems and decreased appetite. There’s relatively little research in the U.S. on the effects of medical cannabis because it’s still illegal at the federal level and hard to obtain for studies, even in states with medical marijuana laws and CBD laws.
  • The American Cancer Society reminds people that “relying on marijuana alone as treatment while avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences. Many people find deals for cbd to make the treatment more affordable.” There are loads of places that people can now get cbd products, for example, you could just take a look at something like https://www.octaviaherbal.com/ to give you a better idea of what else is on offer and how it could help you.

Another closeup on cannabis

The New York Times also did a deep dive on medical marijuana risks vs. benefits this spring with their article called “It’s Time for a New Discussion of Marijuana’s Risks.”

What are some takeaways related to lung health?

  • Citing a 2005 study, The Times says, “No association was found between smoking marijuana and lung cancer.”
  • Although lung function (in the general population) may actually improve in the short term after smoking cannabis, a long-term look shows that chronic marijuana smoking may harm lung function, research shows.
  • Although marijuana may not have a strong link to cancer, check out the full article for other considerations, such as some increased risks when it comes to certain mental health conditions, short-term memory loss and impaired driving.

Join PatientsLikeMe or sign in to see what members say

Some PatientsLikeMe members with lung cancer have included cannabis and cannabidiol/CBD on their profile as treatments they’ve tried. Logged-in members can see what others have said in the forum about:

Anything to add based on your own experiences? Add a comment below or join the conversation on this topic with others living with lung cancer.

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Communicating drug risks/benefits so the message really gets through

Posted February 22nd, 2017 by

Last month, Jim, a member of the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors, was invited by Sally Okun, PatientsLikeMe’s VP Advocacy, Policy & Patient Safety, to present at the Drug Information Association (DIA) Pharmacovigilance Conference. He also led a lunch roundtable for drug risk/benefit communications experts.

Sally, who also participated on the roundtable panel, says requests for patients to participate in events and meetings such as this are increasing: “There’s a lot of interest from the pharmaceutical industry and regulators to hear directly from patients about their experiences. Jim’s presentation was quite powerful and provided a perspective that most in the room had not heard before. The positive response from the audience reaffirmed the value of bringing the patient voice into the full lifecycle of drug development.”

We asked Jim to share his experience (from the patient perspective) attending and presenting at the conference. In his own words:

When it comes to treatment options, patients like us routinely face difficult treatment decisions such as: “Drug X can treat symptoms of your chronic condition and might improve your long-term prognosis. But, 5% of patients on Drug X experience serious side effects, and in rare cases, complications can be fatal.  So: is this a risk you’re prepared to take?”

Question: Now, suppose you worked for a pharmaceutical company or the FDA and were assigned to inform patients like us about Drug X’s drug safety and risks/benefits: what should your primary goal be… provide clear, comprehensive and scientifically accurate advice about all of Drug X’s pros and cons?…OR… help patients review and evaluate information from any source — not just your communication, but also sources like WebMD, PatientsLikeMe, friends and family, and social media — in order to make more effective treatment decisions for themselves?

For participants attending the Drug Information Association (DIA)’s Pharmacovigilance Conference January 17‑18, 2017, this wasn’t a hypothetical question, because their job is to design and develop drug advisory communications for patients and providers.

I recently joined PatientsLikeMe’s Team of Advisors for 2017 and belong to three PatientsLikeMe patient communities (MS, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and aortic valve insufficiency). My plenary presentation focused on how patients would answer the question above — or, more accurately, how I would answer it.

I began by asking conference participants to raise their hands if they’d ever taken a medication (100%); how many had ever read an entire drug insert from start to finish (≈ 2%); and finally, how many had read a few targeted sections of a drug insert (≈ 50%). The key points here were that (1) regardless of what information they should seek in an ideal world, practically all patients, even if it’s only for a headache or a chest infection, tend to “zero in” on just the information that seems most vital to them for making a treatment decision. And, (2) in the case of serious chronic conditions, the way newly-diagnosed patients “zero in” is dramatically reduced; so, (3) safety communicators should focus more on helping patients recognize the  value of considering more useful information rather than less when reaching a genuinely effective treatment decision, and feel confident in their ability to evaluate any source of information available to them.

To illustrate, I walked conference participants through four treatment decisions I’ve personally had to make to show in each case: (a) what objective information — a tiny fraction of everything available — I actually considered, (b) how my emotions (shock, fear, anger, confusion, etc.) had influenced the way I weighed that information, and (c) the one or two factors that turned out to be key to reaching a decision that was both effective and emotionally sustainable for me.

For instance, when diagnosed with chronic leukemia, I was invited to join a clinical trial.  The key objective information I considered included:

  • Risks of the trial (identified and unknown)
  • the +’s and –‘s of standard 1st-line treatment
  • Requirements for participation
  • Costs of participation.

Emotional factors which dominated my thinking at the time included:

  • Desire for the longest possible remission
  • Logistical complexity of participation
  • Perception of this doctor’s stake in having me join the trial
  • My desire to be a good citizen-hero

And, in the end, the driving factor which influenced my decision not to participate in the trial was the fact that the trial’s logistics would have been incompatible with my work life.

After reviewing three other key treatment decisions in the same manner, I summed up three key observations from the patient’s point of view that drug safety communicators should keep in mind when designing their communications:

  1. Personal, emotional and family factors dominate most patients’ perceptions of the objective information they look at
  2. Since major health care decisions are made under the press of time and powerful emotions, they generally have less to do with objective facts about a medication than the patient’s feeling about what’s best
  3. Objective information about a treatment’s +’s and –‘s counts, but only at certain points in the patient’s decision-making process if/when s/he feels calm and self-confident enough to do so

With these in mind, my key takeaway for conference participants was that they should design their drug safety communications first to help patients find a calm, centered place from which to consider and weigh drug information from any source, and only second to focus on the most important, scientifically accurate information about a drug’s risks-benefits. Those would be my priorities for drug communicators…. but would you agree?

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