2013 Congress of Delegates

Energy Drinks, Medical Marijuana on Menu for AAFP Reference Committee

September 26, 2013 04:30 pm Matt Brown San Diego –

The AAFP Congress of Delegates made quick work of the consent calendar from the Reference Committee on Health of the Public and Science here on Sept. 24. In addition to adopting substitute resolutions on energy drinks and medical marijuana, the delegates adopted a substitute resolution on gun violence as a public health problem.

Sarah Nosal, M.D., of Bronx, N.Y., speaks in support of a resolution asking the AAFP to oppose the sale of stimulant drinks to people younger than 18.

The reference committee heard testimony on Sept 23 that energy drinks pose a danger to children and adolescents younger than 18 because they can lead to dehydration, particularly when consumed with alcohol. Because these products remain unregulated, manufacturers are able to market directly to younger audiences, said Sarah Nosal, M.D., of Bronx, N.Y.

"This resolution was brought forth subsequent to multiple ER visits, hospitalizations and even deaths of people who have consumed large quantities of these energy drinks that contain excessive amounts of mainly caffeine and other unregulated supplements," Nosal said. "In my own clinic, we've seen young people present with tachycardia after consuming these drinks in conjunction with alcohol, and these products are clearly being marketed to and targeted at young people.

"(Energy drink manufacturers) are giving out free samples just around the corner from where we live, and our kids are walking home with 5-hour Energy shots because these things are completely unregulated. This is about (taking) time to look at the side effects and making sure to protect young people."

Story highlights
  • The AAFP Congress of Delegates adopted substitute resolutions from the Reference Committee on Health of the Public and Science on energy drinks and medical marijuana during its business session on Sept. 24.
  • Delegates also passed a substitute resolution asking the Academy to issue a statement recognizing firearm-related deaths, injury and violence as significant public health problems.
  • In addition, delegates asked the Board to look at sodium's federal classification and alignment between the U.S. farm bill and dietary guidelines.

The COD adopted an amended substitute resolution that directs the AAFP to work with the FDA to define stimulant drinks, to oppose the availability of free or discounted versions of stimulant products to individuals younger than 18, and to advocate for a ban on stimulant drinks for individuals younger than 18.

Medical Marijuana

Delegates chose to refer a resolution opposing legislative approval of smoked medical marijuana to the AAFP Board, but they did adopt a substitute resolution supporting research into the potential therapeutic benefits of marijuana and expressing concern regarding the efficacy of smoked or burned marijuana as a therapeutic modality.

The reference committee heard testimony regarding the lack of empirical evidence on the efficacy of smoked marijuana resulting from the FDA not recognizing marijuana as a therapeutic agent because of its Schedule 1 Controlled Substance status.

"We all recognize that medications in general are good for patients, but we are speaking about well-researched medications, those that have fixed dosages and whose benefits outweigh the risks," said Arizona delegate Andrew Carroll, M.D., of Chandler. "A recent article in the Journal of Internal Medicine indicated that (medical) marijuana use shows similar properties with regard to lung disease as cigarette smoking.

"Many of our members support research into the components of the marijuana plant to find the specific components that produced a therapeutic effect for certain diseases. However, we ask that any further research, including AAFP-supported research, does not support the use of burnt substances."

Gun Violence

Although delegates approved all of the reference committee's suggestions in regard to three resolutions that dealt with gun violence, only one -- a substitute resolution asking the Academy to issue a statement recognizing firearm-related deaths, injury and violence as significant public health problems and urging politicians and the public to support further research into the epidemiology of risks related to U.S. gun violence -- was adopted.

During the reference committee hearing on Sept 23, committee members heard testimony about the importance of research on gun violence and noted that the AAFP's policy statement on firearm safety, as well as the current policy statement on prevention of gun violence, address the intent of the resolution.

The reference committee recommended against adopting two resolutions regarding background checks on all gun sales, as well as tracking and recording all transfers of firearms.

Finally, delegates also voted to adopt a resolution calling on the AAFP to promote the CDC's National Health Alert Network, which is a vehicle for sharing information regarding urgent public health incidents with federal, state and local health care professionals. Delegates also referred to the AFFP Board resolutions asking the AAFP to advocate that future U.S. farm bills better support dietary guidelines and to petition for removal of sodium's Generally Recognized As Safe status.

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