Stakeholders’  Views on Barriers to Research on Controversial Controlled Substances


Evelyn Rhodes, Michael Andreae, Tyler Bourgiose, Debbie Indyk, Rosamond Rhodes, and Henry Sacks


      Many diseases and disease symptoms still lack effective treatment. At the same time, certain controversial Schedule I drugs, such as heroin and cannabis, have been reputed to have considerable therapeutic potential for addressing significant medical problems. Yet, there is a paucity of U.S. clinical studies on the therapeutic uses of controlled drugs. For example, people living with HIV/AIDS experience a variety of disease- and medication-related symptoms. Their chronic pain is intense, frequent, and difficult to treat. Nevertheless, clinical trials of compassionate management for their chronic symptoms, which should be a research priority, are stymied.

      We employed qualitative methods to develop an understanding of the barriers to research on potential therapeutic uses of Schedule I drugs so that they might be addressed. We elicited the perspectives of key stakeholder groups that would be involved in such studies: people living with HIV/AIDS, clinicians, and members of institutional review boards. As we identified obstacles to research, we found that all of the stakeholder groups arrived at the same conclusion, that clinical research on the therapeutic potential of these drugs is ethically required.


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