The federal government wants the public’s help tracking down studies on the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and is specifically including scientific information about how medical marijuana can treat the cognitive condition in the list of resources it is seeking.
While cannabis is not a Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment option for Alzheimer’s, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is open to reviewing studies on the effects of cannabinoids, it said in a new notice. It specifies that “medical marijuana” is one of several drugs that are “used for treatment” of clinical Alzheimer’s-type dementia.
The notice, published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, reveals a level of openness to the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis that’s not especially common among federal agencies.
Its use of the phrase “medical marijuana” is itself noteworthy.
Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar, who runs the department of which AHRQ is a part, said earlier this year that there “really is no such thing as medical marijuana.”
Surgeon General Jerome Adams delivered the same message this month, saying “there’s no such thing as medical marijuana.”
That said, there have been recent indicators that show the government is at least attempting to increase research into cannabis and its constituent chemicals under the current regulatory framework of prohibition.
There are a number of questions AHRQ listed in the notice—most concerning the effectiveness or harms of “prescription pharmacological interventions” in patients with Alzheimer’s. The agency isn’t requesting that the public directly answer the questions, but says they should be used as a guide for what kind of scientific studies to submit.
One study that could be of interest to AHRQ was published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease in June. Researchers at the Salk Institute found that cannabis can aid in the cellular removal of a toxic protein that’s associated with Alzheimer’s.
Submissions of relevant studies can be sent to [email protected] by January 17, 2019.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.