On Wednesday, the Medical Marijuana Program Board of Physicians in Connecticut recommended adding Lou Gehrig’s disease and ulcerative colitis to the existing list of medical conditions that make a patient eligible to use medical marijuana.
The board voted 3-1 to add ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and ulcerative colitis to the existing list of medical conditions, but split 2-2 on including Fabry disease. These recommendations will be reviewed by Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris.
Only one of the doctors, Cyril D’Souza, voted against adding all three of the conditions to the list of medical conditions that make a patient eligible to use medical marijuana. The doctors who voted to include Lou Gehrig’s disease and ulcerative colitis in the marijuana program were Godfrey Pearlson, Jonathan Kost and Vincent Carlesi. Pearlson had voted against adding Fabry disease to the list of existing conditions.
Debate over what criteria to use when considering ailments for the program
During the hearing, the doctors and the commissioner discussed the criteria that should be used when considering ailments appropriate for the Medical Marijuana Program.
“The standards for approving a drug are basically clinical trials and not just anecdotal evidence,” D’Souza said. “If we are going to rely completely on anecdotal evidence, and that’s what everyone agrees to, then that’s a different process than what I envisioned this committee to do.”
Commissioner Harris agreed with D’Souza and thinks that scientific studies are important and should be a part of the mix.
“The problem here is, we’re stuck kind of in a place where there is evidence that medical marijuana provides relief,” Harris said. “Thankfully, it’s not like some other things, the alternative opioids, where there’s addiction and death with the use of it. So, it’s not like we’re sending out people to poison themselves.”
Commissioner can accept or reject any or all recommendations
Claudette Carveth, a spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer Protection, said, “The commissioner may choose to accept or reject any or all of the board’s recommendations with regard to choosing to promulgate a regulation to add any condition.”
Any change to the medical marijuana program is subject to a review. During which the proposal goes through a hearing. It is then reviewed by the Attorney General and voted on by the General Assembly’s regulation review committee.
The Medical Marijuana Program Board of Physicians already recommended to the attorney general’s office adding ailments which include sickle cell disease, severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and post-laminectomy syndrome with chronic radiculopathy. These conditions could be added to the program sometime this summer.
Ailments already approved for the Medical Marijuana Program
Connecticut law allows residents over the age of18 to register as medical marijuana patients if they suffer from any of the following conditions: cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, intractable spasticity related to nerve damage in the spinal cord, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Number of registered patients more than doubles in six months
As of April 14, 2014, Connecticut had more than 3,600 registered patients. This represents an increase of more than 110% over the past six months (the state had 1,700 registered patients approximately six months ago).
The increase in the number of registered patients may be correlated to the increased number of physicians willing to treat patients by registering them for medical marijuana. In March, Connecticut had 187 physicians willing to take patients and refer them for medical marijuana. In mid-April, the state reported that the number of physicians increased by approximately 7% (200 physicians)
Commissioner Jonathan Harris may accept or reject any or all of the board’s recommendations. I expect to see him approve both conditions because he had voted for both of them. Harris said he wants to get the program moving to provide relief to patients and although D’Souza does not seem to agree with his position she is not the commissioner.