New York is apparently more interested in stroking the interests of Big Pharma than it is in working to ensure the functionality of its poor excuse for a medical marijuana program. It was revealed last week that the state Health Department was preparing to work with Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals in the next phase of clinical trials for their drug Epidiolex, a cannabis-based spray the company hopes to soon market to epilepsy patients across the United States.
A press release indicates that a number of NY hospitals, including Montefiore Medical Center, the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, New York Langone Medical Center, Mount Sinai Beth Israel and the University of Rochester Medical Center, are gearing up to host a series of “compassionate use studies” that will essentially assist GW Pharma in bringing a synthetic version of cannabidiol, the main non-intoxicating compound in marijuana, to a drug store near you.
Within the next several months, the Department of Health says it will begin signing on patients who meet the clinical definition of “severe, treatment-resistant” epilepsy. The drug trial will only include patients who have unsuccessfully treated their condition with at least four anti-epileptic drugs and possibly those who have been diagnosed with a treatment resistant epilepsy syndrome.
“Given the devastating effect seizures have on development and the quality of life for these children and young adults, we are thrilled to be able to provide this opportunity to patients who may qualify,” Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement. “These studies will give patients in New York State who are not responding to conventional anti-epileptic therapy access to a drug that has shown promise in previous expanded access studies.”
While the Health Department may be thrilled to scratch the back of a large pharmaceutical company to test an experimental cannabis drug predicted to be met with FDA approval by the end of the year, the same state officials remain leery of the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant.
Earlier this month, Dr. Zucker, who has the power to add any qualified condition he wants to the state’s medical marijuana program, refused to allow five proposed conditions to be included because the department couldn’t dig up enough scientific evidence to prove cannabis to be an effective treatment.
Furthermore, even though epilepsy is covered under the state’s medical marijuana law, many of those patients are still struggling to get their hands on medicine because the restrictive nature of the program’s regulatory affairs have made it almost impossible to gain access. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported there were only 150 physicians in the entire state that had been certified to recommend medical marijuana and just over 50 registered patients. Even with the number of certified physicians now approaching 250, the state’s aversion to whole plant and edible products, not to mention only allowing the distribution of five strains, has created limitations that prevent the program from doing any good. Right now, officials are too worried that New York is somehow going to become the next California to make any sudden moves.
To compound the situation, patients cleared to participate in the program are being forced to bring along some serious cash when they visit any of the 20 dispensaries. Reports indicate that some patients are expected to spend as much as $1,200 per month on tinctures, oils and vapors, which many cannot afford and no insurance company will dare touch it.
So it stands to reason, if New York believes enough in CBD to sponsor clinical trials, officials should make an effort to expand the program and give patients easier and more affordable access to the medicine they need.
What do you think? Should New York support all aspects of CBD treatment?