July 29, 2016
More patients join medical cannabis program after addition of intractable pain
Minnesota’s medical cannabis program added 481 intractable pain patients as of July 29.
Starting Monday, August 1, these patients – who have chronic pain that can’t be controlled well with existing methods of treatment – can for the first time start receiving medical cannabis at one of the state’s eight cannabis patient centers.
The influx of intractable pain patients marks the program’s highest number of newly certified patients in any single month. As of July 29, the total number of approved patients for all conditions was 1,827, up from 1,580 at the end of June. The number of health care practitioners who approve patients also increased from 605 to 625 in July.
“Many patients and providers are showing an interest in medical cannabis as a possible treatment for intractable pain,” said Michelle Larson, director of the MDH Office of Medical Cannabis. “We’ve increased the staffing at our call center and have been receiving hundreds of calls from Minnesotans who have questions about the program.”
The first step for a patient is to visit a health care practitioner – a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant – who can go to the MDH website and certify the patient has one or more qualifying conditions. Once a provider certifies a patient, the patient can register on the MDH website to receive medical cannabis at one of the state’s eight locations.
Intractable pain, as defined by state law, is pain whose cause cannot be removed and, according to generally accepted medical practice, the full range of pain management treatments appropriate for the patient have been used without adequate result or with intolerable side effects.
The Office of Medical Cannabis relies on the professional judgment of the certifying health care practitioner to address the question of whether the full range of treatments for an individual patient has been sufficiently used to meet the program’s definition of intractable pain. For example, it is not necessary for a patient to have tried opioid medications to meet the definition of intractable pain.
As part of Minnesota’s program, practitioners voluntarily choose whether to certify patients. Minnesota insurers do not cover medical cannabis, so patients need to consider potential out-of-pocket costs that can total hundreds of dollars a month.
Medical cannabis in Minnesota comes in pill or liquid forms – not as a plant for smoking or as an edible product.
For more information, visit MDH’s Medical Cannabis website.