Don't Use Medical Marijuana for Sleep Apnea, AASM Warns

Medical cannabis and synthetic marijuana extracts should not be used to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has advised in a position statement.

In November 2017, the Minnesota State Department of Health (MDH) added OSA  to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for use of medical cannabis.

However, on the basis of currently available evidence, the AASM has concluded that medical cannabis and/or its synthetic extracts should not be used for the treatment of OSA because of unreliable delivery methods and a lack of sufficient evidence of effectiveness, tolerability, and safety.  It is their position that OSA should be excluded from the list of chronic medical conditions for state medical cannabis programs.

The AASM position statement on medical cannabis for treatment of OSA is published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.  

Health Department Misstep

The MDH decided to authorize medical marijuana for the treatment of OSA “despite very limited evidence on its efficacy published to date,” lead author, Kannan Ramar, MD, told Medscape Medical News.

This prompted the AASM Board of Directors to “approve the development of this position statement paper to recommend that medical cannabis and/or its synthetic extracts not be used to treat OSA until further evidence is available,” said Ramar, professor of medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.

“[P]atients should discuss proven treatment options with a licensed medical provider at an accredited sleep facility,” said Ramar.

Scott Smith, public information officer for MDH, told Medscape Medical News that “Minnesota’s medical cannabis program relies on clinicians to use their best medical judgement to determine whether medical cannabis is the correct choice for their patients, regardless of which of the approved conditions they are seeking to

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