Pain added to list of conditions for medical cannabis in Minnesota

The commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health will add "intractable pain" to the list of qualifying medical conditions for medical cannabis. Patients certified as having intractable pain will be eligible to receive medical cannabis from the state’s two medical cannabis manufacturers, LeafLien Labs and Minnesota Medical Soltions, on Aug. 1, 2016. 

“The relative scarcity of firm evidence made this a difficult decision,” Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said. “However, given the strong medical focus of Minnesota’s medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program’s list of qualifying conditions. This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients.”

Minnesota medical cannabis law defines intractable pain as a condition “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.”

“We welcome the opportunity to help Minnesotans who have incurable or intractable pain," LeafLine Labs CEO Manny Munson-­Regala said in a statement. "The stories we hear from our patients, and the testimony many people provided to the Department, illustrate the magnitude of their suffering. Untreated pain is a serious public health problem in our state and country."

“This decision is great news for patients suffering intractable pain,” MinnMed CEP Dr. Kyle Kingsley said. “We already have 10 medicines geared toward pain, so we are well prepared to serve these patients. Now patients can ease their pain with an alternative that poses far fewer dangerous side effects than opioids and other highly addictive and dangerous prescription pain medicines.”

Why it was left out last year

The authors originally left intractable pain out of the enabling legislation for a number of factors: First, there was the problem of defining intractable pain. Second, though no one would publicly admit it, they were worried about recreational users claiming they had intractable pain. Third, they didn’t think they’d have the votes to support passage of the legislation if the condition was included.

Strong support for pain addition

New legislation passed this year allowed the Department of Health to form a task force to study whether intractable pain should be added to the list. A public comment period that included 13 public meetings around the state as well as an online comment submission process showed overwhelming support for its addition. More than 90 percent of the 500 Minnesotans who submitted comments to MDH supporting the addition of pain as a qualifying condition.

Of the 23 states with medical cannabis legislation, Minnesota had been one of just 5 states that didn’t list chronic pain as a covered condition.

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