The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has OK’d just four medicines containing cannabis-related products; other countries have approved more

The debate over the health effects of cannabis has been polarizing for many years. Only in the past couple of decades has the substance been legally used for medicinal purposes. Currently, there are four cannabis-related drug products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

They are Marinol, Syndros and Cesamet, which contain synthetic cannabinoids; and Epidiolex, the first FDA-approved drug that contains cannabis.

Marinol was first approved to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy but now  includes the treatment of weight loss and anorexia in people with HIV. As a result, the drug is a Schedule III drug, meaning it has an accepted medicinal use. Syndros was approved for the same indications as Marinol.

Cesamet mimics the effects of THC, the psychotropic ingredient in cannabis. It has been approved for chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting and as such, is a Schedule II drug.

Epidiolex is approved by the FDA for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two severe and difficult-to-treat forms of childhood-onset epilepsy. Epidiolex is a Schedule V drug, the least restrictive classification in the Controlled Substances Act.

There are some cannabis-derived drugs that are not yet approved in the United States, including Sativex, a combination spray of THC and cannabidiol.

Sativex combines equal quantities of THC and CBD from two cannabis extracts. This product, which is sprayed inside the cheek or under the tongue, has been approved to alleviate the symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis, including muscle spasms and neuropathic pain. Sativex has been approved in 25 countries outside of the United States, including Canada and the United Kingdom.

— Shayli Kipnis