Colorado public health officials are concerned about whether doctors prescribing medical marijuana actually have a relationship with every patient who receives medical marijuana prescriptions.
Information from the medical marijuana registry shows that 15 doctors accounted for 73 percent of total patients, and only five have authorized 49 percent of all recommendations.
Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said he is concerned that doctors really have a “bona fide” physician-patient relationship, as required in the constitution.
‘Working with the governor’s office, we have crafted statutory language changes that would, among other things, clarify what constitutes a bona fide physician-patient relationship,” he said.
The department is asking legislators who plan to craft bills addressing medical marijuana to include information that will prevent fraud and abuse of the amendment to the state’s constitution that allows marijuana use for medical reasons.
Among the recommendations:
Define a bona fide doctor-patient relationship that includes an on-going relationship, a complete assessment of a patient’s medical history and follow-up care.
Ensure a doctor recommending medical marijuana is in good standing and still has a current Drug Enforcement Administration registration.
Prohibit doctors from getting paid for referring patients from a primary care giver or dispensary.
The health department says that the 805 doctors with the lowest number of medical marijuana authorizations have approved slightly more than five patients per doctor, while the 15 doctors with the highest rate have approved 760 patients per doctor.
“This latest data is all the more reason to make a statutory language change that will better ensure that the appropriate patients are participating in the medical marijuana program,” Calonge said.
Many of the requirements suggested by the health department are in line with federal laws that are designed to provide protection from economic conflicts of interest that arise when a doctor stands to benefit from the sale of a medication or service, he said.
Currently, the medical marijuana database has 15,800 people — but health officials say between 29,000 and 30,000 have applied to be included in the registry.
Colorado saw a 27 percent increase in the rate of autism spectrum disorders from its participation in a project to track the disorder.
Overall, the rate of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder — a wide range of disorders — is close to 1 percent, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The information shows a substantially higher rate than previously thought.
Colorado has been part of the CDC study since 2001.
Across all sites, estimates from the year 2006 show an increased prevalence ranging from 4.2 to 12.1 cases for every 1,000 children aged 8 years, with an average of 9, or one in 110. In Colorado, prevalence was reported for Arapahoe County, which had a prevalence of 7.5 per 1,000 children who were 8 years old.
The earliest age that autism can be detected ranges from 50 to 60 months. Colorado had the oldest age of earliest diagnosis.
“Early diagnosis is important to educate and support parents in strategies to enhance language and development,” said Cordelia Robinson, a project investigator.
It is not known whether the increases can be attributed to a true increase in autism or to changes in community awareness.
Engineering researchers at Colorado State University have found a new way to detect traces of tuberculosis bacteria in fluids that is both more sensitive and more accurate.
The research by Diego Krapf, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and a faculty member in the School of Biomedical Engineering, was recently recognized by the Optical Society of America for its potential use in developing countries.
The end goal of the project is to develop a portable, affordable platform for detecting tuberculosis, and one that doesn’t require highly trained doctors to use.
Krapf developed a biosensor that uses a combination of chemistry and lasers to isolate proteins prevalent in TB. He mixes a sample with fluorescent antibodies for the targeted proteins and coats the glass slide with a molecular brush that will stick only to those proteins. Using a home-made microscope, he can determine if TB is present.
The next step is to develop a smaller and cheaper version of the biosensor — now table-top size — to use in the developing world, where TB is still prevalent.
“The problem of TB at the base of the pyramid — in areas lacking the minimal resources such as water and medical facilities — is extremely severe,” he said. “More than 1.5 million people die of tuberculosis every year. It is estimated that 2 billion people carry a form of latent TB and 10 percent of them will develop active TB. The detection problem is so drastic, than at least half of these people do not know they carry the disease.”
Detection techniques used in the U.S. require special facilities and training that are far too expensive for use in developing nation, where resources are scarce and the disease is widespread. Current technologies used in these areas have only a 60 percent sensitivity for TB detection.
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.