Dr. David Yablonsky advocating patient/physician dialogue
(copied from stltoday.com article. written by David Yablonsky)
In November, Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment that will allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients with serious and debilitating illnesses. The initiative was overwhelmingly embraced by Missourians, receiving the most votes of any issue or candidate on the Missouri ballot. And while we are still several months away from Missouri patients being able to officially enroll in the program, now is the time to start discussing this topic with your doctor.
That’s because starting on Dec. 6, the day the law went into effect, Missouri doctors and patients have legal protections under the state’s constitution to discuss medical marijuana as a treatment option for the first time.
As a board-certified internist in both Missouri and Illinois, I have a unique perspective on the exciting changes that lie ahead for Missouri patients. I’ve been a participating doctor in the Illinois medical marijuana program since its inception. In that time, more than 46,000 patients in Illinois have been approved to use medical marijuana.
Through my practice, I’ve certified more than 100 of these patients who meet the qualifying conditions to receive medical marijuana patient cards. Their conditions include epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and various forms of cancer. I believe it’s been a compassionate and responsible treatment option for patients.
The best thing we can do to ensure that Missouri sees the same success is to focus on the education of the medical community. This is why I am a board member of the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, an association of business owners, health care providers, professionals, patients and residents who are taking the lead to help implement a successful, safe and compliant medical marijuana program in Missouri.
As a member of MoCannTrade’s Healthcare Education committee, I look forward to helping inform and educate my peers and fellow practitioners on the anecdotal and evidential success of medical marijuana, especially as an alternative to opioids. It’s time to let state-licensed physicians decide what is best for their patients. That is what this law does: It puts health care decisions back into the hands of doctors and patients.
The public health potential for Missouri’s new law is quite exciting. According to a study published this year in the Journal of American Medicine, states that implement a medical marijuana program like Amendment 2 saw significant reductions in the amount of opioids being prescribed. A 2014 JAMA study showed a 25 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths.
As implementation of the law rolls out in Missouri, it’s important that doctors and patients begin their conversations about treatment early. The Department of Health and Senior Services must make patient applications available by June 6, but patients should begin these conversations with their physicians now so they can be ready to apply as soon as the application is made available this spring or early summer.
I’ve seen medical marijuana be a life-changing treatment for many of my patients in Illinois, helping alleviate debilitating symptoms from many chronic diseases. I expect we will see the same positive results in Missouri, where patients will soon be able to access a safe and compassionate treatment option. But the time to start having this important conversation with your doctor is now.
Dr. David Yablonsky is a board-certified internist who practices in both Missouri and Illinois. He has provided his perspective on medical marijuana and what we might expect in Missouri given the experiences he’s had in Illinois.