Y. Tony Yang, a health services and policy researcher at George Washington University, recently predicted in a JAMA Neurology editorial that a June decision by the F.D.A. will have far-reaching consequences.
The agency approved Epidiolex, the first C.B.D. prescription drug to be legally sold in the United States, for reducing seizures in rare adolescent forms of epilepsy.
“A doctor can now prescribe this off-label for other uses, which is legal and common,” Dr. Yang said. “And on the research side, this could pave the way for controlled clinical trials for other purposes.”
Insurers may balk at covering off-label use, he conceded. Medicare, for instance, doesn’t cover medical cannabis, and it won’t cover drugs used off-label. The bus riders from Laguna Woods often pay $100 to $200 a month out of pocket for cannabis products, a financial struggle for some.
But riders like Catherine McCormick, who’s 53, find it a worthwhile expenditure. To lessen pain after knee replacement surgery, she was relying on high doses of ibuprofen, “too much wine” and several prescription drugs, including oxycodone, benzodiazepines and an antidepressant.
She weaned herself from them all in a few months, she said, by smoking cannabis. That’s made her a believer.
“I have more energy. I can walk,” she said. “I’m not in pain. I feel so much better.”