Medical pot users take a hit

Health insurers just say no to medical marijuana coverage
Associated Press
May 9, 2014


Patients who use medical marijuana for pain and other chronic symptoms can take an unwanted hit: Insurers don’t cover the treatment, which costs as much as $1,000 a month.

Once the drug of choice for hippies and rebellious teens, marijuana in recent years has gained more mainstream acceptance for its ability to boost appetite, dull pain and reduce seizures in everyone from epilepsy to cancer patients.

Still, insurers are reluctant to cover it, in part because of conflicting laws. While 21 U.S. states have passed laws approving it for medical use, the drug still is illegal federally and in most states.

But perhaps the biggest hurdle for insurers is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved it. Major insurers generally don’t cover treatments that are not approved by the FDA, and that approval depends on big clinical studies that measure safety, effectiveness and side effects.

That research can take years and millions of dollars. And while the FDA has approved treatments like Marinol that contain a synthetic version of an ingredient in marijuana, so far, no one has gained approval for a treatment that uses the whole plant.

As a result of the obstacles, advocates for medicinal marijuana say insurers likely won’t cover the drug in the next few years. In the meantime, medical marijuana users — of which advocates estimate there are more than 1 million nationwide — have to find other ways to pay for their treatment.

Bill Britt, for instance, gets his supply for free from a friend whom he helps to grow the plants. Britt lives mostly on Social Security income and uses marijuana every day for epileptic seizures and leg pain from a childhood case of polio.

“I’m just lucky I have somebody who is helping me out, but that could go away at any time,” said Britt, 55, who lives in Long Beach, California. “I am always worried about that”

Insurers have not seen enough evidence that marijuana is safe and more effective than other treatments, said Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.

Marijuana’s Schedule I classification under the federal Controlled Substances Act makes it difficult to conduct clinical studies that might provide that evidence. The classification means the drug is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. And that means extra precautions are required in order to study it.

Researchers have to apply to the FDA to approve their study. Public Health Service also may review it, a process that can take months.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has to issue a permit after making sure researchers have a secure place to store the drug. Researchers also have to explain the study plan to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, another agency within Health and Human Services.


Ralph J.

Feds accused of steering funding to anti-potresearchers Even though Congress has long banned marijuana, the operation is legitimate. It’s run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which doles out the pot for federally approved research projects.
While U.S. officials defend their monopoly, critics say the government is hogging all the pot and giving it mainly to researchers who want to find harms linked to the drug.


This article is pro-legalization propaganda. It implies that the FDA is unreasonably withholding approval of marijuana as a prescription drug, but makes no mention that Marinol, a formulation of THC, is approved. Marinol is safer because marijuana in herb form delivers unreliable doses and smoking it carries cancer hazards similar to cigarettes.

The whole concept of "medical marijuana" shops is dishonest to the core. They're mostly about recreational use and everyone knows it.

thinkagain's picture

They are only fooling themselves. You’re right, the recent onslaught of pro marijuana propaganda, disguised as compassion for cancer victims and such, is geared towards recreational use.

Advocating it’s “medicinal” use as a therapeutic agent is simply a back-door route towards legalizing yet another addictive substance for society.


And your point is?

thinkagain's picture

You really are rather dense aren’t you. Perhaps a course in reading comprehension is in order.


I know you are but what am I?

You assert that the motivation of advocates is not what it seems, which is not a relevant point. Of what relevance is the motivation to the propriety of government telling people what they can or cannot introduce into their own bodies?

Of course, that would be your cue to once again falsely accuse me of being a drug user.

thinkagain's picture

Well…if you’re not high, I’ll stick with dense.

This might help


My reading comprehension is fine. I understood exactly what you wrote, but you miss is that it has no bearing on the topic at hand.

You haven't disputed the facts presented by the advocates. If their facts are accurate, then their motives are irrelevant to the issue. Whether they are motivated by the desire to help sick people, or to grease the rails for the legalization of recreational use, is of no probative value in evaluating their claims.

Perhaps if you understood that, then you'd grasp that people can have a variety of motives for promoting the same idea.
Then you wouldn't be running around bearing false witness all the time, accusing everyone who questions prohibition of being a drug addict.


be nice mr. phelps.

Sal Dali

The United States owns the patent for cannabinoids--one of the medicinal derivatives of marijuana ( US Patent 6630507) and argues the case of its medicinal uses rather well. I didn't read gateway drug anywhere in the description, however, according to the patent holder, there are a myriad of illnesses it can successfully treat.


That's why Marinol is approved - unlike pot, it delivers a reliable dose, and I'd doesn't cause cancer like smoking does.


The problem is, it must be ingested, rather than inhaled, which is problematic for those suffering from nausea and loss of appetite, two of the symptoms which it's most commonly used to treat.

Maybe they'll make suppositories?

From the Grave



But Obamacare is the Savior!