Medical marijuana has been touted as an effective cancer treatment for decades by its various supporters, but despite the growing number of states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, marijuana remains a sparsely recommended drug for patients with life-threatening illnesses.
On the other hand, large pharmaceutical manufacturers continue to churn out novel cancer treatments at a rapid pace, with each new formula being marketed as a cutting-edge therapy that will revolutionize the global fight against cancer. Unfortunately, this tends to be far from the reality.
A great example of this is a cancer drug called Avastin (bevacizumab). Avastin is most commonly prescribed for the treatment of colon cancer, but has also been used to treat lung cancer, breast cancer, and a specific form of brain cancer known as gliobastoma.
More notably, the drug recently made headline news for a newly uncovered side-effect: flesh-eating disease. Indeed, a safety review released by Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., the makers of the drug, earlier this year, identified 52 cases of flesh-eating disease among patients with an Avastin prescription. 17 of these cases were fatal.
But while flesh-eating disease is considered to be one of the rarer side-effects of Avastin, its more frequently-reported side-effects are just as concerning. Clinical trials show that a significant number of Avastin users experience a heightened risk of bleeding, hypertension and gastrointestinal perforation – a hole in the intestines.
Unfortunately, such dangerous side-effects are all-too-common among cancer therapies and have come to be accepted as something that patients will simply have to deal with. Up until 2011, when the FDA revoked their prior approval of Avastin for the treatment of breast cancer, it held the title of the best-selling cancer drug in the world.
And although follow-up trials showed that Avastin was not effective enough at prolonging overall survival or slowing disease progression in breast cancer patients, it continues to be widely prescribed for colon cancer — a disease that was estimated to claim over 600,000 lives in 2008.
It’s interesting to note that Avastin makes no claim to curing colon cancer or preventing disease-related deaths. Instead, Avastin merely prolongs survival — by an average of less than 5 months, according to clinical trials.
All that for a drug that costs over $100,000 per patient for a single year’s worth of treatment ?. It’s about time that someone took a better look at what medical marijuana has to offer as an alternative treatment for colon cancer.
Luckily, someone already has, by the name of the National Cancer Institute. Listed on their website is an enlightening summary of what medical marijuana research has shown so far.
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