Prof. Martyn Partridge: ‘To suggest a substance should be used on the basis of anecdotal experience in one person is unwise, especially in the case of those aged under five.’ *Photo supplied/iStock photo
Prof. Martyn Partridge: ‘To suggest a substance should be used on the basis of anecdotal experience in one person is unwise, especially in the case of those aged under five.’ *Photo supplied/iStock photo

Medical experts overseas have dismissed Opposition Leader Marc Bean’s claims that he cured his three-year-old daughter’s asthma by giving her ‘ganja’ tea.

Three leading authorities on the condition told the Sun there was no evidence to suggest cannabis could be used to treat asthma, let alone cure it.

And one expert said it was “unwise” to base a general treatment recommendation on the anecdotal opinion of one individual.

On Friday in the House of Assembly, Mr Bean suggested that his daughter’s asthma had been cured after he gave her a “big cup of ganja tea”.

Martyn Partridge, a Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College London, rejected the assertion. He said: “There are no studies to suggest that ganja tea can cure asthma and indeed no evidence that asthma can be cured as opposed to controlled.

“To suggest that a substance should be used on the basis of anecdotal experience in one person is unwise, especially in the case of those aged under five years of age when it is not possible to differentiate asthma from other wheezing illnesses, which often spontaneously remit as the child gets older.

“Modern medicines, if taken, are safe and extremely effective in controlling asthma.”

Professor Partridge’s view was backed up by another expert in the field, Dr Christopher Fanta.

Dr Fanta is the Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the founder of Partners Asthma Centre at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

He said: “There are no scientific studies indicating that ‘ganja tea’ effectively treats asthma, let alone cures it.

“I am currently reading a book about the myths that spring up around ‘alternative’ or ‘complementary’ medicine based on anecdotes such as this one.

“It is called Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Paul A. Offit, M.D.

“It makes the distinction between two events that happen to occur one after another, such as drinking ‘ganja tea’ and resolution of asthma, and a causal relationship; drinking ‘ganga tea’ did not cause the resolution of his daughter’s asthma.

“Like the author of this book, I believe that medical advances are made as the result of scientific experimentation, not by applying unique, individual experiences to others.”


I
n the House of Assembly on Friday, Mr Bean said he did not need much scientific evidence to back up the medicinal use of cannabis as he explained why he had given his young daughter ‘ganja tea’ to treat her asthma.

He said: “Since that day she has never, ever suffered from asthma. Since that one day, that one cup of cannabis tea. So you can’t tell me [about] the medicinal use of it.”

But Dr Gary Jones, senior consultant at Texas Pulmonary and Critical Care Consultant, told the Sun there was no evidence to suggest that marijuana causes long-term relief from asthma.

He added: “The data on marijuana and asthma is somewhat mixed. There are several studies documenting relief of bronchospasm in experimentally induced asthma, and relief of exercise-induced bronchospasm using smoked marijuana. These effects would be transient, similar to the effect of an albuterol (salbutamol) inhaler.

“Many studies have shown that cannabis smoke irritates the airways and is associated with cough, sputum production, wheezing, and bronchitis. Additionally, it has been associated with exacerbation of asthma and exacerbation of cystic fibrosis.

“This same group of investigators found that long-term use is associated with increased respiratory symptoms suggestive of obstructive lung disease, although obstructive changes were not documented by pulmonary function testing. Cannabis smokers have significantly higher rates of chronic inflammatory changes compared to those who do not smoke after controlling for sex, age, current asthma and tobacco use.

“Additionally, cannabis smoking has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and bladder cancer, although somewhat surprisingly, not with head and neck cancer.

“I could find no scientific literature studying the effect of cannabis tea on asthma, although the Internet is loaded with unscientific testimonials. Physicians are always wary of testimonials and any measures not subjected to scientific analysis such as double-blind placebo-controlled trials.

“Basing therapy on testimonials has consistently led us down dangerous paths, often leading to harm to the patients.” 

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