Study uncovers dispensaries in recommending marijuana for glaucoma treatment

September 11, 2019
Lynda Charters

Employees of medical marijuana dispensaries advocate drug’s benefits, contradicting the position of the American Glaucoma Society.

Employees of medical marijuana dispensaries advocate the use of marijuana for treating glaucoma, a position that is counter to recommendations of the American Glaucoma Society1 (AGS) and current glaucoma literature.

When it comes to the treatment of glaucoma, patients should be properly educated during clinical encounters about marijuana.

The use of medical marijuana by adults more than doubled in the United States between 2001 and 2013 with the legalization of the drug in a number of states across the country, one of the first of which was Colorado in 2000.

In 2009, a position paper issued by the AGS advised against the use of marijuana for treating glaucoma. However, patients continue to ask about the drug’s possible benefits, according to Jordan Stanley, MD, an instructor/fellow, department of Ophthalmology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO.

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The study

To assess recommendations that employees of medical marijuana dispensaries are giving patients who may consider marijuana as an option to treat their glaucoma, Dr. Stanley and colleagues conducted a study in which dispensaries were called by a person posing as a patient with glaucoma.

The primary study outcome was the number of dispensaries that recommended a product containing marijuana for the treatment of glaucoma. In the study, investigators randomly selected 60 medical marijuana dispensaries to call from the website of the Colorado Department of Revenue Enforcement Division.

In each instance, the caller identified them- selves as a patient with glaucoma, and asked questions about marijuana use for glaucoma while working from a prepared script. The questions focused on products recommended for glaucoma treatment, recommended methods, safety, and whether they should talk to their doctor, Dr. Stanley recounted.

Findings

When asked about the availability of marijuana products recommended for treating glaucoma, the investigators reported that 35 (58%) of the dispensaries recommended using marijuana, and 25 (42%) dispensaries deferred from making a recommendation.

When the employees were asked about the recommended method of use, 45% recommended using the sublingual tincture, 21% edible consumption, 20% no preference, and 14% suggested inhalation.

When questioned about the safety of the products, 78% claimed that the marijuana products were safe, and 22% deferred from making a recommendation.

Finally, when the caller asked about the need to contact his or her eye doctor for a recommendation, 38% responded yes, 35% claimed that was optional, 17% recommended contacting a marijuana doctor, and 10% responded no.

“Our findings highlighted the importance of patient education during clinical encounters regarding marijuana use as a glaucoma treatment,” Dr. Stanley concluded. “Despite the recommendations of the AGS and the current glaucoma literature, the majority of employees of medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado recommend marijuana for treatment of glaucoma.”

References:

1. Hasin BS, et al. Prevalence of marijuana use disorders in the United States between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry 2015;72:1235-1242

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