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DOH Approves Medical Cannabis Use for ALS Patients

December 20, 2017, 5:30 AM HST · Updated December 20, 12:59 PM
Nikki Schenfeld · 0 Comments
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The Hawai‘i Department of Health announced it has added Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS, to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use.

The decision was based on a rigorous review and analysis of written and oral testimony, a public hearing, and peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

Of the 29 states and US jurisdictions that permit medical cannabis, 19 include ALS as a qualifying health condition.

The Hawai‘i DOH says that although they found little evidence to support the value of medical cannabis for ALS; they determined medical cannabis may be appropriate for patients diagnosed with ALS after receiving a comprehensive assessment by a patient’s physician or APRN and a risk-benefit discussion.

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In April 2017, the DOH opened the petition process to allow patients, physicians, and advance practice registered nurses to petition the department to add new debilitating medical conditions to the existing list of conditions that could benefit from the use medical cannabis.

Unlike prescription medications that undergo rigorous clinical trials for the treatment of certain health conditions before being released to consumers, medical cannabis does not have that same level of evaluation by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Under Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, all new conditions must be thoroughly reviewed from an evidence-based perspective and be subject to a public hearing. This year, the DOH received two such requests and began the review process.

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The other condition submitted for consideration was general anxiety disorder. The Department of Health says they declined the request because at this time there is inconclusive medical evidence that cannabis has beneficial use in the treatment or alleviation of symptoms of anxiety, social phobia, and social anxiety disorder, and no evidence specific to GAD.

In addition, because the prevalence of GAD, high rate of comorbidities, and dearth of scientific evidence to support the use of cannabis in the treatment of GAD, the potential for adverse outcomes is a public health concern.

Next year’s deadline to request the addition of new health conditions is Feb. 19, 2018.

The petition form is available online for patients, physicians, and APRNs and must be submitted by
the deadline to be included in the public hearings tentatively scheduled for May 2018.

Any petitions received after Feb. 19 may be considered the following year.

Nikki Schenfeld
Nikki joined the Maui Now team in 2016 as a writer/reporter. Originally from Chicago, she has had internships with CBS2 Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago where she had the opportunity to interview some of Chicago's best athletes. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2010 with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism. She moved to Maui in 2013.
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