Hertz Nazaire, 41, lives with sickle cell disease and while he says he’s never tried marijuana to ease his chronic pain, he hates the narcotics he because they make him dizzy and nauseous. He said he would like medical marijuana to be an option.
“The pain is as strong as any other disease you have on that list,” Nazaire told the state physicians board Wednesday during a public hearing.
Nazaire wants the board to add sickle cell disease to the list of 11 conditions that qualify a patient to receive medical marijuana in Connecticut.
“My pain is not being addressed in a legal means,” Nazaire said. “I’m sitting here today just to ask that patients like myself be given a choice.”
He said his pain usually goes untreated because he is viewed by the medical community as someone who is seeking treatment to “get high” because the most common treatment for the pain is addictive narcotics.
“I deal with strong pain, insomnia, and nausea from my prescribed medications,” Nazaire told the four member board.
Dr. John Roberts of Yale University, who has cared for adults with sickle cell disease for more than 20 years, said the “hallmark of sickle cell disease is pain.”
He said many people with sickle cell disease take many medications and he believes medical marijuana could help ease the pain.
But as long as marijuana is illegal, it’s difficult to study its effects on sickle cell disease.
Roberts said he has patients who obtain marijuana illegally to help control their pain, but they risk criminal prosecution based on those decisions.
He suggested that medical marijuana would be a palliative maneuver to help patients manage their pain. But at the moment all the information about marijuana’s impact on patients with sickle cell disease is anecdotal.
In addition to sickle cell disease, patients with Tourette’s syndrome, post-laminectomy syndrome, and severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis were seeking to add their conditions to the list of 11 approved conditions.
Jay Jacovitz, 60, of Norwalk, suffers from PTSD and psoriasis. He was one of about 3,000 patients in Connecticut who already have been certified to purchase marijuana from six dispensaries.
Within 10 days of getting the marijuana back in September, Jacovitz said there was a vast improvement in his health and his ability to sleep and manage his weight. It also helped stop the bleeding that resulted from the psoriasis, which covers 20 percent of his body.
“I can function with this,” Jacovitz said. “This stuff has saved my life.”
He said the other 10,000 people in Connecticut with psoriasis should be given the option to obtain marijuana.
David Pompei, a pharmacist, said psoriasis is more than skin deep.
He suggested that the pain, itching, and anxiety created by the disease can be treated with marijuana.
But like sickle cell disease, there are no studies that prove the efficacy of marijuana on psoriasis.
Joanne Cohen, who was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome back in 1974, told the physicians board that it could relieve some of the motor and vocal tics suffered by people with the disease.
“I would try medical marijuana if it would relieve the pain,” Cohen said.
The public still has until Dec. 12 to submit written testimony to the board for its consideration. The board will deliberate on the four petitions at their next meeting on Jan. 14, 2015.
This will be the first time anyone has attempted to expand the list of medical conditions for which marijuana can be prescribed since Connecticut passed the law in 2012.
If the board makes a recommendation to approve one of the conditions, the Department of Consumer Protection would need to write a regulation, which would then need the approval of the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee.
Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein said if a condition is recommended, the earliest it may be approved is the summer.