Pennsylvania will consider more conditions that should benefit from medical marijuana - Tribune-Review

Updated 7 hours ago

Pennsylvania may soon make the conditions for medical marijuana treatment more suitable.

The State Medical Advisory Council on Medical Marijuana has approved a new process to modify and broaden the status list of 21 serious conditions for which patients can use cannabis as a treatment, said Health Department spokesman Nate Wardle.

In the coming weeks, the council will begin to accept research-based petitions for the qualifying conditions to be added to the list, with provisional plans to discuss and vote on the first round of communications during its next meeting on February 1st.

Cannabis for anxiety, depression?

Patient advocates say they are confident that the change will extend the eligibility to patients who have medical problems that could benefit from cannabis but remain excluded from obtaining legally – such as those struggling with depression, anxiety and insomnia.

"The Pennsylvanians have been using illicit marijuana for years to treat a wide variety of conditions not included in the state list," said Dr. Roxanne Rick of the Cannabis Care certification centers, which aims to offer to people an alternative to opioids for the treatment of pain and addiction.

Since medical marijuana became available in Pennsylvania in February, the organization with four doctors has helped more than 1,000 patients with conditions eligible for certification through offices and mobile devices in Uniontown, Monroeville, Bethel Park, Delmont and State. College.

Most patients who turn to medical marijuana have sought help for the conditions of chronic pain qualification and post-traumatic stress disorder, Rick said. Some are able to get a card to help with a problem like migraine – which is not on the list – if a doctor describes their migraine problem as chronic pain, or recurring pain that lasts longer than
90 days. Others benefit from marijuana as a relief for a health issue unquoted as anxiety just because they also have a qualifying condition such as chronic pain.

"We make people call us who we know would benefit from medical marijuana, but they do not fit into these 21 slots," said Dr. Elizabeth Spaar of the Spectrum Family Practice in Verona, which deals with treating children and adults for addiction, autism and autoimmune conditions induced by PANS / PANDAS infection. "Anxiety is common." It is quite established that marijuana is very useful for the treatment of anxiety, but it is not a qualifying condition, and therefore if they do not have another qualifying condition to go on with it, we can not offer it to them, which is extremely frustrating.

"In particular, I would really like to see anxiety, depression and ADD ADHD," said Spaar.

Dr. John Metcalf of Medical Marijuana Solutions said medical marijuana could be extended to help not only the listed mental health problems, but also many types of physical problems, from migraine to Lyme disease.

"As we expand the list, it benefits the patient," said Metcalf, who is responsible for certifying patients with medical marijuana after retiring from a thirty-year career in primary care, urgent care, and medicine. of work.

Metcalf and Spaar noted that Pennsylvania is less than a handful of states that included autism on its medical marijuana list, with children typically taking cannabis in the form of a tincture or capsule.

"There are many states where parents of autism have worked hard to put them on the list and have not been successful, so we're lucky," Spaar said. "It is extremely useful for aggression and the anger these children can get, it is also very useful for the obsession … They tend to have a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety and when they manage to calm down a lot, they tend to progress and develop mentally ".

In spring, the board of directors added terminal illness and opioid dependence to the list of qualifying conditions.

"With patients with opioid dependence, we certainly had patients who were in methadone or suboxone who were able to get rid of these and have purely medical marijuana," Spaar said. "We have had others who have eliminated opiates with medical marijuana, because it helps with the full range of withdrawal symptoms and have just reported a significant improvement in quality of life."

Doctors want to say more

Several Western Pennsylvania doctors who prescribe medical marijuana have said that the new process of changing the state list is encouraging, but have also complained that it is not broad enough to broaden access to cannabis and give more authority to doctors who prescribe.

"I would like it if it could recognize the autonomy in the medical decision-making process of a doctor instead of placing restrictions on us," said Spaar.

In California, for example, doctors can recommend medical marijuana to patients based on a list of conditions or "any other disease for which marijuana provides relief."

"It makes sense to me that a patient's personal physician should be able to review the research and diagnosis with the patient to decide whether it is a viable or not treatment option for them," said Metcalf.

Supporters remain skeptical about how difficult it will be to get a new condition approved.

According to the new trial, whose terms are being finalized and will be published on the Health website of the Department at the end of this month, a subcommittee of the state council will examine the petitions for the conditions presented at least 15 days before one of the quarterly of the state advisory council meetings, Wardle. The proposal will then be discussed and voted during the meeting.

In approving the council's recommendation, Pennsylvania Health Minister Rachel Levine said more research will be available on "the efficacy and usefulness of medical marijuana as drugs", expanding the list it might be appropriate "to provide relief to patients and access to being the only course of treatment or palliative care available."

The change is "quite unique in Pennsylvania" and stems from a recommendation mentioned in the May report by the board, Wardle said.

It is not clear how much research and testing the subcommittee will require to approve a new condition or how long it will take until patients with the newly approved condition can get medical marijuana papers. The council is not sure how many petitions to expect, said Wardle.

Medical marijuana is legal in at least 32 states, although marijuana in any form remains an illegally controlled substance under federal law. This has severely limited US research on its effects.

"Pennsylvania has done things that other states have not even come close to, like autism as a condition, and we are the only state of the union that allowed eight schools of medicine" to start to use marijuana for medical research, said Metcalf. .

Governor Tom Wolf signed the law that legalizes medical cannabis in April 2016 law.

The dispensaries have started selling medical marijuana in pills, oils, tinctures and ointments in February, and then dried leaf, or flower, form on August 1. The State Department of Health regulates the program, which still prohibits patients from smoking dry leaf marijuana. It must be vaporized.

Since this month, more than 87,000 patients and nearly 10,000 healthcare professionals have registered for the state's medical marijuana program and over 56,700 patient certifications have been released, Wardle said.

Nearly 900 of over 1,300 physicians who have registered with the program have been approved as prescribers.

The fortieth medical marijuana dispensary opened two weeks ago, Solevo Wellness-Jackson Pointe in Zelienople.

Next year's medical medical marijuana council meetings will be held on February 1, May 15, August 14 and November 13, 2019.

For more information, call (717) 547-3047 or send an email to RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov. Comments may also be presented at the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana office, Department of Health, Hall 628, Building for Health and Welfare, 625 Forster Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120.

Natasha Lindstrom is a writer of the Tribune-Review staff.
You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514,
nlindstrom@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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