Medical marijuana nixed for Tourette's in CO: "The system has failed," Brian Vicente says

Page 2 of 3

Vicente adds that "it's very frustrating for patient advocates. I think this shows the board of health really does not recognize that marijuana is a legitimate medicine. It's protected in Colorado law, and it should be available for any patients who find relief from using it -- and certainly for individuals with incurable conditions like Tourette's Syndrome."

Tourette's was specifically mentioned by Dr. Ned Calonge, Colorado's chief medical officer, in an August interview following the announcement that he'd be leaving his post in early November to serve as president of The Colorado Trust.

Calonge insisted that he didn't want to impose FDA standards on conditions approved for treatment by medical marijuana. "If we did that, we'd never approve another condition -- and, to be honest, none of the ones in the constitution would be approved, either, because none of them have that robust evidence to prove that they're beneficial," he said. "So we tried to look at another standard -- at least one randomized trial on humans that shows it works. That's a really low standard, but one we think should at least elevate a condition to consideration either in front of the advisory board or the board of health."

Tourette Syndrome would be the first condition to be evaluated in this way, Calonge went on, "because there was a randomized trial of 24 individuals in Germany, and it showed some modest efficacy in terms of reducing tics. The size of the study is really minuscule, because of the 24 people in the trial, only seventeen of them finished. But it's the first petition where I've received any evidence of efficacy in humans -- and we're not going to add a condition on the basis of rat studies. There's no country in the world that approves medication on the basis of animal studies only. We need to have at least some shred of evidence from a good study that it's actually going to help humans -- do more good than harm."

In the end, the Tourette's evidence considered yesterday did nothing to sway the board of health -- and that doesn't surprise Vicente, who sees Calonge's self-imposed standard as contradicting language from Amendment 20, the constitutional measure that legalized medical marijuana in Colorado.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts