Minnesota’s Commissioner of Health has announced he has added intractable pain as a qualifying condition for state’s medical cannabis program.
While Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said firm evidence is “scarce” of medicinal marijuana’s benefit in relieving intractable pain, it became clear that the “right and compassionate” choice was to add the condition to the state’s list.
More than 90 percent of 500 Minnesotans who commented on the proposal supported the addition of intractable pain as a qualifying condition.
“This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients,” said Dr. Ehlinger.
The decision comes after an MDH-appointed panel rejected the idea of allowing those suffering intractable pain access to medicinal marijuana in November.
So what exactly is intractable pain under the Minnesota definition?
According to the Department:
“…a pain state in which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated with the consent of the patient and in which, in the generally accepted course of medical practice, no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible, or none has been found after reasonable efforts”.
Some Minnesotans have been able to legally use medical cannabis to alleviate suffering from certain qualifying conditions since the first of July this year.
Currently, 784 patients have been approved in the MDH registry to acquire medical cannabis and 460 health care practitioners are registered and authorized to certify patients. Just two manufacturers are permitted to grow and produce cannabis medication in Minnesota, with what Dr. Ehlinger says are strong process controls and security measures in place to prevent abuse. Patients are not permitted to smoke the product and are not provided with plant material – medications are in vaporizer oil, spray or tincture form.
While the adding of intractable pain to the list is good news; patients with the condition won’t be eligible to receive medical cannabis until August 1, 2016 – an incredibly long time to wait if you’re suffering. However, Minnesota’s move may also encourage other states with medical marijuana programs to also add intractable pain to their own qualifying conditions lists.
A recent study indicates medical cannabis used to treat chronic pain over twelve months appears to have a reasonable safety profile. Two hundred and fifteen individuals were administered 2.5 grams of cannabis a day in the study.
“Medical cannabis use over one year was associated with improvements in pain, function, quality of life and cognitive function,” states the study abstract.
Use of cannabis to treat pain could also result in lower use of opioid medications.