AASM: Medical Marijuana Should Not Be Used to Treat Sleep Apnea

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) remains the mainstay of medical treatment for OSA
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) remains the mainstay of medical treatment for OSA

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has issued a position statement regarding the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Specifically, the AASM states that medical marijuana and synthetic marijuana extracts should not be used to treat OSA as the evidence for use is lacking.

In 2017, the Minnesota Department of Health had announced that OSA would be added to a list of qualifying conditions for which medical cannabis can be used. In their position statement, AASM expressed concern over this decision, noting that it was based on studies of short duration (3–6 weeks) that provided limited evidence on the safety and efficacy of dronabinol in patients with OSA.  Currently, dronabinol is only approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of refractory nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy and for anorexia with weight loss in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

In their position statement, AASM recommended that OSA be excluded from the list of chronic medical conditions for state medical cannabis programs.  "Until we have further evidence on the efficacy of medical cannabis for the treatment of sleep apnea, and until its safety profile is established, patients should discuss proven treatment options with a licensed medical provider at an accredited sleep facility," said lead author Dr. Kannan Ramar, professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) remains the mainstay of medical treatment for OSA.

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For more information visit jcsm.aasm.org.