July 11, 2014
PRESS RELEASE: Letter from Rick Doblin to University of Arizona in Support of Dr. Sue Sisley
On July 11, 2014, MAPS Founder Rick Doblin, Ph.D., wrote to Caroline Garcia, Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Arizona, to express MAPS’ support for Dr. Sue Sisley’s reinstatement at the university after she was fired on June 30. Dr. Sisley is the lead investigator of MAPS’ planned study of marijuana for symptoms of PTSD in 70 U.S. veterans.
Download the letter.
Brad Burge, MAPS
(831) 429-6362 x103
To Caroline Garcia, Associate Vice President for Research, University of Arizona,
I am writing in response to your Thursday, July 10, phone call during which you expressed the University of Arizona’s full support for the conduct of MAPS’ federally approved clinical study into the use of marijuana in veterans suffering from chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As you noted, the recently fired Dr. Sue Sisley, University of Arizona non-tenured clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, was the specified Principal Investigator but was not a direct party to the fully executed Clinical Trial Agreement between MAPS and the University of Arizona. You proposed that the University provide a new Principal Investigator to replace Dr. Sisley so that we could proceed with the implementation of what you indicated the University considers to be a much-needed study. As I noted, the Wednesday, July 9, approval of PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in Arizona by Will Humble, the Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, makes obtaining data from a controlled clinical trial even more important.
It is my understanding that Dr. Sisley is appealing her termination from the University of Arizona. MAPS adds our appeal to hers that you reconsider and reinstate her at the University of Arizona.
But for the efforts of Dr. Sue Sisley over more than a four year period, this research would not even exist and would not have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the University of Arizona Institutional Review Board (IRB), and the Public Health Service (PHS)/National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Dr. Sisley was also instrumental in obtaining a multi-year grant from the Arizona Department of Health Services to educate physicians in Arizona about medical marijuana for a range of therapeutic uses, a valuable project that will end prematurely with her termination from the University.
Dr. Sisley has a genuine passion for researching marijuana as a possible treatment for PTSD and a long track record providing clinical care to our vets with PTSD. She is also an expert and an educator about the range of medical uses of marijuana. MAPS has successfully partnered with Dr. Sisley on our study for many years as we have struggled for and obtained regulatory approval. She is uniquely qualified to be the Principal Investigator to conduct this study in a methodologically rigorous manner. MAPS will continue to partner with Dr. Sisley through our next challenge to secure a supportive home for this crucial work, ideally still at the University of Arizona.
Neither MAPS nor Dr. Sisley want to postpone research into a treatment with potentially beneficial contributions to the health of our veterans and others suffering from PTSD. Practically, the delays caused to the study by Dr. Sisley’s firing and her appeal process will not delay the start of the study. NIDA, which has a monopoly on Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-licensed marijuana legal for use in FDA-regulated research, has failed to provide an adequate and uninterrupted supply of marijuana for research. Unfortunately, though the PHS approved our protocol on March 12, 2014, and required NIDA to sell us marijuana, NIDA has informed us that we are forced to wait until about January 2015 for it to finally provide the marijuana with the potencies of the cannabinoids (THC and CBD) that we need for our study.
Dr. Sisley is an exemplary physician and is the ideal Principal Investigator for our marijuana/PTSD study. I urge you to seriously consider her appeal for reinstatement. I am eager to testify on her behalf should there be an opportunity.
Rick Doblin (Ph.D., Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University)
MAPS Executive Director
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