To the Editor,
Across New York State voters are responding to a June 3 announcement the Governor Cuomo and the State Health Department have partnered with a British pharmaceutical company to conduct clinical trials with a product made from marijuana, Epidiolex. Why are medical marijuana advocates inflamed over Governor Cuomo’s actions? Well, why is Governor Cuomo making deals with an overseas pharmaceutical company and not endorsing legislation that would bring a burgeoning industy to New York State? Why is he silent in the face of support for medical marijuana from thousands of patients, family members, caregivers, physicians and many well respected scientific bodies across the state?
Epidiolex is already in clinical trials in six medical centers across the country, with expanded participation coming in the near future. These trials are up and running, have already cleared the FDA red tape, and are treating a tiny fraction of the pediatric epilepsy population. Additional clinical trials of Epidiolex will allow access for only a handful of pediatric epilepsy patients. The remaining children along with adult epileptics, cancer patients, chronic pain patients, those with multiple sclerosis, et cetera are left with the same pharmaceutical options available now. As a parent of a child with Dravet Syndrome, I am giving my son medications that stop him from sweating, threaten his liver, and cause him to rage at no provocation. Is there anyone who opposes the Compassionate Care Act that would like to tell me what medication cocktail my son should be on to keep his life-threatening seizures away?
I am also a physician in NY. I sit in awe that some lawmakers have accepted marijuana as medicine, or at least concede some medicinal properties, yet want to have a hand in who, what, when, where, and why the medical community would prescribe it. I have not seen Senators Skelos or Defrancisco, or Governor Cuomo, in any of the exam rooms where chronic pain is treated with morphine, hydrocodone, valium, steroid injections, and on and on. Nor are they with the neurologists prescribing infants and children drugs that carry the risk of developmental delay, organ failure, growth retardation, and severe behavioral disruption. Cannabis has been grown, researched, and provided to patients by the US government. Cannabis and its derivatives have been extensively studied in animal and human models with clear results showing countless benefits for a myriad of illnesses.
Why is the Cuomo administration making this very public endorsement of expanding research on a marijuana based medication, but has not come out in support of the Compassionate Care Act (S.4406B/A.6357B)? The New York Assembly passed their version of the bill last week, and the Senate Health Committee passed the senate version two weeks ago. Not only is there broad bipartisan support, a recent poll shows over 85% of New Yorkers support passage of the Compassionate Care Act. The Compassionate Care Act would make medical marijuana eligible to be dispensed by private companies, under a physician’s approval, to patients suffering with certain medical conditions. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. The chairman of that committee, Senator John Defrancisco (R-C-I, Syracuse) has not allowed the committee to vote on the matter. Instead, he has passed the buck to the co-leaders of the Senate, Senator Jeffery Klein (D, Bronx/Westchester) and Senator Skelos (R-C-I, NY 9th District).
The legislative session ends June 19. This bill needs to go to the senate floor for a vote before that date. Please contact Senator Klein, Senator Skelos, and Senator Defrancisco urging them to allow a vote by the Senate on the Compassionate Care Act.
Amy Piperato, M.D.