UPMC Clears Doctors to Certify Patients for Medical Marijuana

UPMC clears doctors to certify patients for medical marijuana.

The well respected University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which initially kept a strategic distance from medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania has stepped in and produced a recommendation that would assist the doctors intent on certifying persons from the drug.

This change could enhance the doctors’ participation in the program. The recommendation was finalized last week and is scheduled to be distributed to numerous doctors throughout this week.

One key point of UPMC’s recommendations is that doctors should not use medical marijuana as the first line of treatment for all medical issues. Additionally, any patient certified by a UPMC doctor must schedule a follow-up visit in one month.

Vice chairman of pain medicine at UPMC, Dr. Arjay Wasan stated that we think it will help providers, who were thinking about certifying patients, make their decision. The shift is that it has become more and more clear that medical marijuana is really an important issue to patients.

“They have great concerns over it, and our health care system wants to be a partner with patients to do what is best for them.”
Vice chairman of pain medicine at UPMC, Dr. Arjay Wasan

A policy for Allegheny Health Network is currently being developed

Candace Herrington, a spokesperson representing the Allegheny Health Network stated that a policy is currently being developed for their doctors. Whereas, Excela Health has yet to take the necessary steps in that directions.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH), April Hutcheson, made it clear that PDH applauds UPMC for this decision and encourage all medical professionals to provide access to medical marijuana, which Governor Wolf has supported throughout the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program.

“Physician participation is vital to the success of this program.”

Wasan made it clear that UPMC doctors were not restricted from associating themselves with the program, but they were adamant that proper guidelines should be implemented in the health system.

The Allegheny General Hospital of the West Penn Allegheny Health System on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

The Health Department of Pennsylvania regulates the medical marijuana program

The medical marijuana bill was signed into law in April 2016 by Governor Tom Wolf. Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is available in pills, oils, tinctures or ointments. The Health Department is in charge of regulating the program, which forbids smoking marijuana in dry leaf form.

One of the specifics remains that doctors prescribing medical marijuana must be registered with the state Health Department, which requires taking a four-hour training course before they can certify patients for medical marijuana.

Wasan stated that although marijuana remains classified federally as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the same category as heroin, meaning dispensaries cannot be reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid, UPMC patients will be covered for pain evaluations within the health system. He continued saying because the process of certifying for medical marijuana is part of a process of evaluating and treating chronic pain, there will not be a separate charge.

“The visit will be embedded within a larger process of chronic pain evaluation and treatment.”