A study examined interdisciplinary provider perspectives on legal medical cannabis use in children with cancer. It found that 92 percent of providers were willing to help children with cancer right to use medical cannabis. Nevertheless, providers who are legally qualified to certify for medical cannabis were less open to endorsing its use.
While nearly a third of providers received one or more requests for medical cannabis, the lack of standards on formulations, dosing and strength was identified as the greatest barrier to recommending it. These findings reflect survey responses from 288 providers in Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington.
Pediatric oncology providers received frequent requests for medical cannabis for relief of nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, pain, depression and anxiety. Most providers measured medical cannabis more permissible for use in children with advanced cancer or near the end of life than in earlier stages of cancer treatment. This is consistent with the current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) position that sanctions medical cannabis use for children with life-limiting or seriously debilitating conditions. Only 2 percent of providers reported that medical cannabis was never appropriate for a child with cancer.
The bulk of providers (63 percent) were not concerned about substance abuse in children who receive medical cannabis. Their utmost concern was absence of standards around prescribing medical cannabis to children with cancer.
In addition to uncertain dosage guidelines, the lack of high quality scientific data that medical cannabis benefits overshadow possible harm is a huge concern for providers familiar to evidence-based practice. We need meticulously designed clinical trials on the use of medical cannabis in children with cancer.