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Minnesota Medical Marijuana Expands to Add Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease will be eligible for medical marijuana treatment in Minnesota, starting next year, becoming the 14th state of health…

Alzheimer’s disease will be eligible for medical marijuana treatment in Minnesota, starting next year, becoming the 14th state of health that the state has certified since the program began in 2015.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced Monday that it was laying to degenerative neurological disorder to the cannabis program, which already includes cancer pain, epileptic seizures, posttraumatic stress disorder and autism.

Although research on cannabis and Alzheimer’s disease is limited, some studies have found that marijuana inhibits the formation of tau proteins that accelerate dementia and memory loss related to the disease.

“All political decisions on cannabis are difficult due to the relative lack of published scientific evidence,” said Jan Malcolm, Member of the Council. “However, there are some evidence of potential benefits of medical cannabis to improve mood, sleep and behavior in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.”

Seven conditions had been left this summer by advocacy groups to a state medical marijuana advisory panel, but Malcolm only added Alzheimer’s. The other were hepatitis C, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, opioid disorder, panic disorder, psoriasis and traumatic brain injury.

Minnesota will now be among 1

5 states where medical marijuana can be used to treat Alzheimer’s, as submitted this summer to add the condition as a qualifying condition.

Dr. William Orr, a Minneapolis-based geriatric psychiatrist, supported the petition and argued that advanced Alzheimer’s disease could lead to confusion, aggression and fighting. Benzodiazepines and drugs can calm these patients, he wrote, but these drugs are not federally approved for the purpose and can cause severe, mood-changing side effects.

“I think advanced dementia patients with huge anxiety, restlessness and pain will benefit” from medical marijuana, he wrote. “Such patients are episodically distraught and quickly become angry and paranoid by staff trying to help them because of their confusion and inability to understand their circumstances.”

Minnesota Association of Geriatrics took a neutral position and said that cannabis to treat Alzheimer’s was not well investigated, but that it supported further research.

Minnesota medical marijuana program started three years ago, with two companies approved to distribute cannabis in liquid or pill form. Patients seeking cannabis must obtain certification that they have qualified conditions. The state lists 1 391 doctors or other practitioners in the state that are authorized to grant certification.

The state also uses the program to initiate research because of the limited evidence of the medical benefits of a drug that is otherwise considered an illegally controlled substance that may impair the judgment and cause abuse. An investigation survey earlier this year found 60 percent of patients with chronic pain who believed cannabis helped and 43 percent of their doctors agreed.

The state noted 12,207 patients in its active medical marijuana registry in September, rising from 7,007 a year earlier. The addition in December of December of autism and sleep apnea to the list of qualified conditions did not fuel the increase. Only 396 people with any of these conditions were registered in September.

Most registered persons reported uneven pain, a condition that was added in 2016. The 7,917 people with that state accounted for 65 percent of the registry. PTSD and muscle spasm were the most common conditions.

How much Alzheimer’s increase in the registry is unclear. Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 94,000 people in Minnesota have the disease. Alzheimer’s was the leading cause of 2120 deaths in the state of 2016.

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