The Oregon Health Authority oversees the medical marijuana industry in the state, and they have just released new patient care guidelines for those physicians who choose to recommend medical marijuana. Previously, all that was required was that the physician had diagnosed the patient with one of the qualifying debilitating conditions and provided them with a recommendation for medical cannabis as their form of treatment. New guidelines suggest that physicians conduct a full medical history of their patients, as well as a full physical when recommending cannabis therapy.
“What this report is saying is that patients for whom medical use of marijuana is recommended deserve the same minimum level of care as those prescribed any medication to treat a debilitating condition,” said Andre Ourso, manager of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program at the OHA Public Health Division.
Really, these guidelines are not a bad thing – the physician overseeing treatment should have a full idea of your physical condition if they are supposed to properly help you manage an ailment or condition. In any other situation, to get a prescription you would probably be subject to a physical and any doctor who is working to diagnose and treat a patient should have a good understanding of their medical history. Another recommendation is that physicians continue to oversee treatment on an ongoing basis, including in-person, follow-up visits.
These are really not bad suggestions at all – they are only intended to help patients receive the best possible care from their physicians. However, at least some activists are concerned that this may cause additional monetary burdens for patients (who often can’t work and live on fixed incomes due to their medical conditions or illnesses). Josh Taylor of the Oregon Cannabis Association specifically points out that these patients already shoulder additional costs for treatment including registering with the state, not to mention the price of their medicine which is not covered by health insurance like other medications.
“They’re already being hit with fees from the OHA to register their card. They’re already paying fees to see a doctor,” Taylor said. “It just doesn’t seem fair to pile on any additional fees for the patient.”
Perhaps there is a way to ensure that patients can get the quality of care that they need, without having to put out extra money that they probably can’t afford. It is definitely admirable to see the OHA want to ensure patients the exact same level of care as patients receiving any other sort of treatment – but perhaps they didn’t consider the potential extra cost to the patient for a physical exam and additional follow-up visits.