Board OKs medical marijuana for Alzheimer’s patients

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - The New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program’s Medical Advisory Board voted Wednesday unanimously to add Alzheimer’s patients to the list of people who qualify for medical marijuana.

Those who work closely with Alzheimer’s patients in the state told KRQE News 13 there isn’t enough evidence to prove that medical marijuana would help their patients. But the state’s Drug Policy Alliance disagrees.

New Mexico could soon join 13 other states where Alzheimer’s patients are eligible for medical marijuana. “It’s an extremely big problem for our state, and it’s going to get bigger as the population continues to age,” explained Jessica Gelay, of the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance.

More than 30,000 New Mexicans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and there is no known cure. The state’s medical marijuana advisory board voted unanimously to add Alzheimer’s disease to the list of eligible conditions for the drug.

“Medical cannabis can be helpful in increasing their appetite, in aiding them with sleeping, and it can also help to decrease the inflammation in their brain that can lead to Alzheimer’s and make it progress faster,” explained Gelay.

But the New Mexico Alzheimer’s Association claims there is not enough evidence to prove that the drug would help. Communication’s Director Jamie Frye said national research is being funded, but it’s not applicable to humans yet.

“The ones that are going on right now are in animals and they’re also testing the brain inflammation piece of the equation, so they’re looking at it as a prevention and not necessarily as a treatment that alleviates symptoms,” said Frye.

Gelay pointed out Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease patients are eligible for the drug, adding, Alzheimer’s should be next on the list. She said there are only five FDA approved medicines for Alzheimer’s, and they don’t definitively stop the progression of the disease, only temporary relieves symptoms, and only works for small amount of people. Gelay suggests Cannabis might be better alternative.

Frye claims there isn’t enough evidence for the Alzheimer’s Association to stake an official position on the matter. “If we saw some really robust, well-designed peer reviewed controlled studies, then certainly it would be something that as an organization we’d have to look at, but right now that evidence just does not exist,” explained Frye.

The advisory board makes the recommendation, but the Secretary of Health will have the final decision. There is no time frame for when that may happen, but the drug alliance hopes to hear back in the next couple months.

There are currently 19 qualifying conditions for New Mexico’s medical marijuana program, and more than 10,000 patients. Those conditions include:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Epilepsy
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hospice Care
  • Intractable Nausea/Vomiting
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Severe Anorexia/Cachexia
  • Spinal Cord Damage with intractable spasticity
  • Spasmodic Torticollis (Cervical Dystonia)
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Inflammatory autoimmune
  • Painful Peripheral Neuropath
  • Severe Chronic pain
  • PTSD

Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia among the elderly.

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