In one of those moments that define irony, a commercial for a prescription intended to relieve the symptoms of OIC (Opioid-Induced Constipation) happened to be blithering on in the room when we opened Jennifer Brooks' post, Panel opposes letting pain patients into medical marijuana program, at the Strib.
A state panel that spent months studying whether to expand Minnesota’s medical marijuana program to pain patients came out in opposition to the idea Wednesday.
Minnesota has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the nation and as of last Friday, just 662 patients had enrolled in it. Adding intractable pain as a qualifying condition could potentially open the program to thousands more.
But the eight-member Intractable Pain Advisory Panel split 5-3 against the idea of adding intractable pain to the shortlist of serious conditions that qualify Minnesotans to enroll with the state Office of Medical Cannabis. It was a reversal of the panel’s earlier support for the idea; the last time members weighed in, they supported expansion by a 5-2 margin, with one member undecided.
“Panel members expressed concern that patients eligible to use medical cannabis for pain have expectations that it would provide total relief and that such a perception may leave patients to abandon other proven pain management methods, such as physical therapy,” the recommendation noted. “Panel members agreed that medical cannabis should not be the first line of therapy in treating intractable pain, but that it could be an option after exhausting other standard treatments.”
The panel’s decision frustrated Cassie Traun, who enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program to treat her Crohn’s disease. Not only does cannabis treat her Crohn’s symptoms, she said, but it eases the pain of her arthritis as well, and she knows many other patients who use marijuana as a pain reliever.
“Cannabis is not a magic bullet. It’s like any other medication,” she said. “To restrict people who are in extreme amounts of pain, and unable to live normal lives; to restrict their treatment options is, honestly, criminal in my mind. It’s really disappointing.”
The final decision is in the hands of Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, who has until the end of the year to decide the intractable pain issue. Ehlinger will hold a public forum on the issue at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Wentworth Library in West St. Paul.
We're with Traun on this one and hope Commissioner Ehlinger will override the panel's recommendation. The panel suggested some restrictions on qualifying patients for medical cannabis in the event of an override--and some of these are common sense.
On the other hand one suggestion--prohibiting medical cannabis for patients under age 21 who are expected to live a normal life span--seems foolish in the face of the approval of oxycontin for use in treating children as young as eleven by the F.D.A this summer.
The report details the makeup of the panel:
The advisory panel included a substance abuse treatment expert, two primary care physicians with expertise in pain management, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with subspecialty certification in pain medicine, a physician’s assistant with a pain management specialty, an advanced practice registered nurse with pediatric pain management focus, a pharmacist, and a board certified clinical psychologist with specialty experience in pain management.
Here's the report:
Photo: This is what legal medical cannabis looks like in Minnesota: an extract or oil from one of two companies that grow and process the plant. Whole plants (leaves) for smoking? Not allowed.
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