(CNN) – Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called "Weed." The title "Weed" may sound cavalier, but the content is not.
I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.
Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled "Why I would Vote No on Pot."
Well, I am here to apologize.
I apologize because I didn't look hard enough, until now. I didn't look far enough. I didn't review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.
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CNN has acquired the U.S. television broadcast rights for the award-winning documentary, Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare. The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and received honors at the 2012 Silverdocs, Full Frame, and other prominent festivals. The two-hour feature-length film was produced and directed by Matthew Heineman and Academy Award-nominee Susan Froemke and distributed by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate. It will debut on CNN/U.S. on Sunday, March 10 at 8:00pm and air again at 11:00pm Eastern.
The film reveals flaws in the notion that the healthcare delivered via America’s patchwork of facilities, practitioners, and insurers offers good value for its outcomes. Through the real-life experiences of physicians and patients, Escape Fire shows the tremendous pressures providers feel to reduce costs and limit patient interaction time – and the frustrations of patients struggling with preventable conditions that are often created or exacerbated by insufficient or inappropriate care.
Americans spend nearly twice as much on healthcare as any other country on Earth, but lag behind nearly every industrialized nation in life expectancy – ranking number 50 out of more than 220 nations around the world in the 2011 CIA World Factbook. In the film, former Administrator for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Dr. Don Berwick, and the former director of communications for insurance giant CIGNA Wendell Potter, explain this as partly due to the impact of for-profit interests that guide an uncoordinated care system that focuses more on disease management than disease prevention.
“CNN Films is very pleased to bring this documentary to television,” said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide. “The physical health of our nation and the cost of healthcare, impact every current fiscal challenge we face. This compelling film gives us an explanation of some of the factors that have contributed to our broken system and explains why we urgently need to fix it.”
Filmmaker Heineman said, “CNN is the perfect place to release Escape Fire to spark an honest and important dialogue about the future of healthcare.”
Viewers meet a war-injured veteran seeking to wean himself from dozens of medications for his pain and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms with acupuncture, meditation, and other more holistic remedies, a short-order cook who accesses his local hospital emergency services since he does not have a primary care physician, and a mother with heart disease, who learns less expensive, less invasive procedures may have helped her to avoid her multiple surgeries.
The film also offers innovative healthcare solutions from leaders in the public and private sector, including noted holistic health experts Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Dean Ornish, Safeway grocery chain CEO Steve Burd, medical journalist Shannon Brownlee, Cleveland Clinic cardiovascular chairman Dr. Steven Nissen, and Dr. Berwick. They describe this moral hazard for physicians – predominantly fee-for-service health care payment models incentivize medical interventions yielding higher profits and spend less time counseling patients how to curb or avoid illness related to behaviors that cause conditions like obesity and diabetes in the first place.
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta will moderate a 30-minute discussion following the exclusive premiere broadcast of Escape Fire, focused on how Americans can cut through the red tape to save money and increase their access to healthcare.
Escape Fire will encore on Saturday, March 16 at 8:00pm and 11:00pm ET and PT on CNN/U.S.
CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is the most trusted source for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; CNN Digital Network, the No. 1 network of news Web sites in the United States; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively-syndicated news service; and strategic international partnerships within both television and the digital media.
Jay Keasling, a pioneer in the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, is
engineering microbes – single cell organisms like yeast and e coli – to
produce biofuels, medicines, even cosmetic compounds from simple ingredients
like sugar cane and grass.
In addition to teaching bioengineering at UC Berkeley, Jay is also CEO of
the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville,
Keasling’s biggest breakthrough to date came in 2003 when he and his
students reprogrammed yeast to produce a synthetic version of an expensive
anti-malarial drug known as artemisinin. Armed with a $42 million grant
from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they’ve since perfected this
inexpensive and effective replacement drug, providing a royalty-free license
for mass production to pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventi. Sanofi will bring
it to market in 2013, producing 100 million treatments annually. Malaria
currently kills roughly 1 million people a year, many of them children. FULL POST
What you need to know about the new strain of norovirus spreading across the U.S.
This week on Sanjay Gupta MD: Is your sofa toxic?
Your sofa contains anywhere between 4-6 pounds of flame retardants, even though for 20 years, scientists have warned that these chemicals can cause cancer and neurological defects, especially in children – even autism. And yet they’re still in use – in everything from furniture to baby products – because the companies who make flame retardants, and their supporters in Congress, say the science isn’t clear. But as Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports, the lobbyists have twisted the truth: that flame retardants are not only harmful, but ineffective. Our investigation uncovers misleading claims, highlights real health risks and shows how the chemical industry has put profits ahead of public health and safety.
Sanjay Gupta MD airs Saturdays at 4:30 pm ET and Sundays at 7:30 am ET.
Greg Gage is a globe-trekking neuroscientist, engineer, teacher and entrepreneur. He's the co-founder of Backyard Brains, a Michigan-based company that wants to revolutionize how science is taught by putting neuroscience in the hands of young people. Watch Greg Gage's full 30-minute profile this Sunday at 2 P.M. ET. on CNN’s “The Next List.”
Why he matters: Gage has come up with an innovative way to inspire future generations in neuroscience. As the co-creator of Backyard Brains, Gage created the “SpikerBox,”a small DIY kit that helps young people understand the electrical impulses that control the nervous system. He brings cool hands-on experiments to schools so students can see and hear brain signals, or “spikes” from the living neurons of insects like cockroaches.
Gage is passionate about coming up with ways to change neuroscience education, because, he says “when it comes to the brain, we’re in the dark ages. One out five of us will be diagnosed with a brain disorder that still has no cures. By getting more people involved ... we can inspire those interested to become neuroscientists, and perhaps cure brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”
Why he cares: The inspiration for Gage's work as an educator came from a realization that the advanced equipment he used as a PhD student could be made at home for a fraction of the price, in less than a day.
"Our equipment that we were using cost $40,000," he said. "We set off on a self-imposed engineering challenge to see if we could replicate our expensive lab equipment with something affordable by consumers.”
Gage ended up with the $100 "SpikerBox. It can be used with a smartphone, iPad or computer to monitor brain activity in real time. After a few minutes, amateurs can begin to understand the basic principles of how neurons encode information, and how remarkable the brain can be.
CNN’s special live coverage of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school continues with anchors and correspondents reporting from Connecticut, including Anderson Cooper, Soledad O’Brien, Erin Burnett, Candy Crowley, Wolf Blitzer, Don Lemon, Sanjay Gupta, Ali Velshi, John Berman, Kate Bolduan, Susan Candiotti, David Ariosto, Jason Carroll, Gary Tuchman, Kyung Lah and Alison Kosik. Below is the current programming schedule for Sunday, December 16. FULL POST
Last night on Ac360, an amazing story about an experimental treatment brings a little girl back from the brink of death due to her battle with leukemia. Incredibly, doctors used a strain of HIV to reprogram her immune system to kill cancer cells. Anderson talks with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about how it works.
Every 19 minutes, someone dies of a drug overdose in America. That U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistic refers to legal and illegal drug use, but most of those overdose deaths are due to legal prescription drugs.
Accidental prescription drug overdoses in the United States now kill more people than heroin, crack, and methamphetamines combined. And, also according to the CDC, accidental prescription overdoses now kill more Americans than do car crashes.
In a compelling new documentary, Deadly Dose: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports,CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports how prescription drug misuse has become an epidemic. He speaks with a survivor, and takes viewers to the front lines of the crisis – riding along with paramedics, interviewing emergency room doctors, and listening to panicked calls to a poison response center – witnessing, first-hand, the too-often deadly consequences of drug overdoses.
Deadly Dose will debut on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 8:00pm and 11:00pm ET & PT on CNN/U.S. The network will encore the one-hour documentary on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 8:00pm and 11:00pm ET & PT. FULL POST