Provider Perspectives on Use of Medical Marijuana in Children With Cancer

Ananth, P.; Ma, C.; Al-Sayegh, H.; Kroon, L.; Klein, V.; Wharton, C.; Hallez, E.; Braun, I.; Michelson, K.; Rosenberg, A. R.; London, W.; Wolfe, J.

Pediatrics. 2017 Dec 14; 141(1)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Although medical marijuana (MM) may have utility in the supportive care of children with serious illness, it remains controversial. We investigated interdisciplinary provider perspectives on legal MM use in children with cancer. METHODS: We sent a 32-item, cross-sectional survey to 654 pediatric oncology providers in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington characterizing MM practices, knowledge, attitudes, and barriers. Forty-eight percent responded; 44% (n = 288) were included in analyses. Providers were stratified by status as legally eligible to certify (ETC) for MM. We used Fisher's exact and Wilcoxon rank tests and univariate and multivariate logistic regression models for group comparisons. RESULTS: The provider median age was 35 years (range 22-70 years); 33% were ETC (83 physicians; 13 Washington state advance practice providers). Thirty percent of providers received >/=1 request for MM in the previous month. Notably, only 5% of all providers knew state-specific regulations. ETC providers were more likely to know that MM is against federal laws (P < .0001). Whereas most providers (92%) reported willingness to help children with cancer access MM, in adjusted models, ETC providers were less likely to indicate approval of patient MM use by smoking, oral formulations, as cancer-directed therapy, or to manage symptoms (P < .005 for all). Forty-six percent of all providers cited the absence of standards around formulations, potency, or dosing to be the greatest barrier to recommending MM. CONCLUSIONS: Most pediatric oncology providers are willing to consider MM use in children with cancer and receive frequent inquiries. However, ETC providers endorse less favorable attitudes overall. The absence of standards is an important barrier to recommending MM.

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