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Mass Medical Society: New Medical Marijuana Regulations “Raise Concerns”

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


The President of the Massachusetts Medical Society says that although they support research to show “safety and effectiveness of marijuana as medicine,” the state Department of Public Health (DPH) made three changes today that “raise concerns.” Patient confidentiality, use by children, and certifying authority are all points the Mass Medical Society see as problematic.

President Richard Aghababian, M.D., said that the Mass. Medical Society, “believes the Department of Public Health has done a thoughtful and responsible job overall in developing regulations to implement the medical marijuana law,” he said. “However, three changes that the Department made to the original proposals and that were approved today by the Public Health Council do raise concerns.”

Confidentiality of Information

In a press release from Aghababian, he stated, “We support the intent of the DPH to keep patient specific information confidential but are concerned that treating information on physicians as a public record may lead to patients engaging in ‘doctor shopping’ for the drug or to other undesirable results.”

Aghababian said that the Mass. Medical Society suggests that the DPH in practice keep as much information as possible on physician participation available only to the Board of Registration in Medicine or to other investigative agencies.

Certifying Authority

“The approved regulations contain a provision that opens a legal door to allow the state board of nursing to allow nurse practitioners to certify patients,” he said. “This is contrary to the literal language of the law approved by the citizens of the Commonwealth and appears inconsistent with the specific language of the regulations regarding the seriousness of the debilitating conditions required for physician certification that a patient may benefit from marijuana.”

Aghababian said that if patients are suffering from the diseases listed in the referendum, it is important that these patients be managed by experienced medical teams led by physicians who are knowledgeable in the management of these conditions.

Use by Children

The President of the Mass. Medical Society also said that the group is “concerned that the Department has changed the regulations related to children, by allowing the override of the ‘life-limiting’ provision and by changing the definition of ‘life-limiting illness’ from six months to two years.”

“In the absence of well-designed scientific research data, we are concerned about extending the time from six months to two years,” Aghababian said. “The scientific evidence is clear that marijuana use by children is dangerous, as studies have found toxic effects on the still-developing brains of young people.”

Aghababian added that the final regulations outlined by the department staff today “appear to have taken into account many of our concerns, especially those that call for physician judgment in determining what conditions may qualify and the inclusion of the Prescription Monitoring Program in certifying patients.”

He said that it will now depend on the Board of Registration in Medicine and the Department to carefully oversee the way physicians, dispensaries, caregivers and patients respond to the regulations and remain vigilant to ensure that standards of care in certifying patients for marijuana use are no less stringent than the standards of care for other areas of medical practice.


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