Minnesota OKs medical marijuana to treat Alzheimer’s

Published 7:04 am Tuesday, December 4, 2018

MPR News Staff

MPR News/90.1

Minnesota Alzheimer’s disease patients will be eligible to use medical marijuana in their treatment starting next August.

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State Health Department officials Monday they’ve added Alzheimer’s as qualifying condition to receive medical cannabis. The decision, part of the department’s regular process to review requests for treatment, means patients suffering from the crippling neurological disorder can enroll starting in July with their doctor’s approval.

“Any policy decisions about cannabis are difficult due to the relative lack of published scientific evidence,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. “However, there is some evidence for potential benefits of medical cannabis to improve the mood, sleep and behavior of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.”

The 2014 Minnesota Legislature authorized the creation of a medical cannabis program and included nine conditions that would qualify a person to receive medical cannabis. State rules allow the health commissioner each year to add other qualifying conditions and delivery methods.

Health Department staff reviewed petitions over the summer for requests to add qualifying diseases to the cannabis program, including Alzeheimer’s, which Malcolm approved.

The department describes Alzheimer’s as a “neurodegenerative disorder that mainly affects elderly people. It is the most common cause of dementia. Other symptoms include cognitive impairment, delusion, depression and agitation.”

In their review, Health Department researchers cited two available studies that found some patients saw improvements in disruptive nighttime behaviors and agitation after cannabis treatment.

Cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, intractable pain and HIV are among the diseases eligible to receive medication from Minnesota’s two state-approved medical cannabis producers.