Deaths from Marijuana v. 17 FDA-Approved Drugs
(Jan. 1, 1997 to June 30, 2005)
From Medical Marijuana ProCon.org
Much of the medical marijuana discussion has focused on the safety of marijuana compared to the safety of FDA-approved drugs. On June 24, 2005 ProCon.org sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to find the number of deaths caused by marijuana compared to the number of deaths caused by 17 FDA-approved drugs. Twelve of these FDA-approved drugs were chosen because they are commonly prescribed in place of medical marijuana, while the remaining five FDA-approved drugs were randomly selected because they are widely used and recognized by the general public.
We chose Jan. 1, 1997 as our starting date as it is the beginning of the first year following the Nov. 1996 approval of the first state medical marijuana laws (such as California’s Proposition 215). The FDA reports we read from Sep. 13, 2005 to Oct. 14, 2005 included drug deaths “to present”, which was the date each report was compiled for our request.
We cut off the counting as of June 30, 2005 to provide a uniform end-date to the various reports.
On Aug. 25, 2005 the FDA sent us 12 CDs and five printed reports containing copies of their Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) report on each drug requested. These reports included all adverse events reported to the FDA, only a portion of which included deaths. We manually counted the number of deaths reported on each drug from the FDA-supplied information.
A review of the FDA Adverse Events reports also revealed some deaths where marijuana was at least a concomitant drug (a drug also used at the time of death) in some cases. On Oct. 14, 2005 we used the Freedom of Information Act to request a copy of the adverse events reported deaths for marijuana/cannabis. We received those reports on Aug. 3, 2006 in the form of three additional CDs.
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