DEA Legalizes Cocaine Derivative As Diagnostic Aid For Parkinson's, Ignoring Cannabis Experts Seeking Same

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is making progress on the legalization of a cocaine derivative, which researchers have found useful in the differential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and tremor syndromes.

In a Federal Register filing published Monday, the administration wrote that the cocaine derivative [18F]FP-CIT is a “diagnostic substance that is used in assisting the evaluation of adult patients with suspected Parkinsonian syndromes” and does not meet the requirements “for inclusion in any schedule” and is therefore being removed “from control under the CSA.”

About a year ago, the DEA announced plans to deschedule this controlled substance which is derived from cocaine. The move came nearly three years after the agency obtained a petition for the policy change.

The DEA published a notice in the Federal Register revealing that [18 F]FP-CIT is “a diagnostic substance that is used in assisting the evaluation of adult patients with suspected Parkinsonian syndromes” and is used in the “visualization of striatal dopamine transporters (DAT) using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging.”

It further explained, “Based on FDA’s scientific and medical review…and findings related to the substance’s abuse potential, legitimate medical use, and dependence liability, HHS recommended that [18 F]FP-CIT be removed from all schedules of the CSA.”

What About Cannabis? Hmm...’ It’s Very, Very Difficult’

What about marijuana, which has been proven many times to have low abuse potential and medical value?

Well, cannabis advocates reacted by asking the agency to treat the plant the same and to recognize its established medicinal value.

Nevertheless, in the new filing, the DEA paid very little attention and respect to public feedback, which compared the cocaine-derived substance’s treatment to that of marijuana, reported Marijuana Moment.

“One commenter opposed decontrol of [18F]FP-CIT, suggesting rescheduling cocaine, or any cocaine derivative, is a safety concern and such rescheduling would wrongly signal that cocaine is less harmful than cannabis,” the DEA said. “DEA does not agree with the commenter’s concern about harm. [18F]FP-CIT is derived from cocaine, a schedule II substance, via ecgonine, a schedule II substance.”

It is important to note that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) previously concluded that the derivative “appears to be more potent than cocaine in some behavioral assessments.” And that FP-CIT “may potentially have abuse potential if the dose taken is high enough and if the deterrent effect of the extremely low concentration of the available radioligand is not considered,” a previous DEA filing stated, although the derivative would typically be administered in a medical setting.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed last month that it is reviewing what options they have in connection to the federal government's cannabis scheduling review ordered by President Biden. According to the agency's top official, Janet Woodcock, this is a very high priority. Even though the FDA will chair the evaluation of marijuana, the DEA “has the final word,” said Woodcock, who stressed that scientific research is “very, very difficult” because of the plant’s Schedule I status.

Photo: Benzinga Edit; Sources: Crispin Jones and Colin Davis on Unsplash





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