Providers and patients alike want and need more information on the clinical implications of medical marijuana in glaucoma management, survey shows. Photo: Getty Images.

The American Glaucoma Society (AGS) has stated that they do not recommend the use of medical marijuana (MMJ) as a treatment for glaucoma, despite evidence supporting that inhaled tetrahydrocannabinol, the drug’s major active component, can lower intraocular pressure. Reasons for the Society’s disapproval include the side effect profile of MMJ and the fact that limited evidence exists to support that marijuana alters glaucoma’s long-term disease course. Still, a survey sent to the specialists at AGS found that one in four members believe MMJ plays a role in glaucoma treatment and that three in four desire additional information on the topic.

Researchers distributed the electronic survey to AGS members with the goal of investigating the groups’ perceptions and attitudes toward the medicinal use of marijuana for glaucoma. Respondents were questioned on their demographics, previous experiences with patients discussing the topic, prescribing patterns and former education or knowledge on using MMJ to treat glaucoma.

Survey responses from 198 AGS members were included, each one self-identifying as a glaucoma-trained provider or current glaucoma fellow. Data from the completed surveys yielded the following results:

  • Over two-thirds (37%) of respondents had patients who cited using MMJ for their glaucoma, and 38% reported being asked about MMJ by patients at least once a week.

  • Fifty-five percent of surveyed specialists had at least one patient ask them for an MMJ prescription.

  • When asked if they felt marijuana could play a role in the management of glaucoma patients, 27% of respondents said yes.

  • Fourteen percent of survey-takers said they keep information on MMJ at their practice.

  • The majority of respondents (76%) showed interest in receiving additional education on the topic.

Based on this data, the research group made several conclusions, the most prominent one being that there is insufficient knowledge on the subject in both ophthalmologists and their patients.

“In this study, we found that a significant number of providers have patients inquiring about MMJ for glaucoma management, explicitly asking for prescriptions or reporting that they have already used marijuana to treat their glaucoma,” the researchers wrote. “A higher-than-expected number of respondents felt that there was a role for MMJ in glaucoma treatment despite the statement of the professional societies. Additionally, there appears to be a lack of information available to patients and providers on the topic of MMJ and glaucoma management with a growing interest and need for additional educational material on the topic.”

The researchers warn that especially since more and more states are headed toward the drug’s legalization, additional education is warranted for both patients and providers on its implications of MMJ. “As the legality of MMJ continues to expand throughout the United States, it is increasingly important for both patients and providers to be educated on the topic of MMJ in the management of glaucoma,” they concluded.

Bergman Z, Douglas J, Wang J, et al. Attitudes and perceptions towards the use of medical marijuana by glaucoma specialists. J Glaucoma. November 25, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].