Deaths from Marijuana vs. 17 FDA-Approved Drugs
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.II. Cause of Death Categories & Definitions
The FDA AERS reports rely on health professionals to detect an "adverse event" and attribute that event to the drug, and then to voluntarily report that effect to either the FDA or the drug manufacturer. The drug firm, by law, must report that event to the FDA. The FDA states "ninety percent of the FDA's reports are received from drug manufacturers" on page one of its "Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) Brief Description with Caveats of System." (PDF 2.7 MB)III. FDA Disclaimer of Information
Included in the 15 CDs and five printed reports from the FDA was the following disclosure:IV. Summary of Deaths by Drug Classification"The information contained in the reports has not been scientifically or otherwise verified. For any given report there is no certainty that the suspected drug caused the reaction. This is because physicians are encouraged to report suspected reactions. The event may have been related to the underlying disease for which the drug was given to concurrent drugs being taken or may have occurred by chance at the same time the suspected drug was taken.
V. Chart of Deaths from Marijuana and 17 FDA-Approved Drugs
VI. Sources & Disagreement on Marijuana Deaths
VII. Full Text of All 20 FDA "Adverse Event" Reports
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