This Is Why PTSD Cannabis Research Needs the VA Secretary’s Help Right Now

This Is Why PTSD Cannabis Research Needs the VA Secretary's Help Right Now

Flickr / The U.S. Army / CC BY 2.0

PTSD Cannabis Research Facing More Challenges

On Aug. 6, 2017, Sue Sisley, M.D., sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to request that he stop a Phoenix hospital’s obstruction of the first clinical trial to study the effects of medical cannabis in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans.

“Despite our best efforts to work with the Phoenix VA hospital and share information about the study, they have been unwilling to assist by providing information to their patients and medical staff about a federally legal clinical trial happening right in their backyard that is of crucial importance to the veteran community,” Sisley wrote in her letter.

According to Sisley, RimaAnn Nelson, Medical Center Director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, has thwarted the clinical trial’s recruitment efforts by prohibiting the distribution of the IRB-approved physician referral letter to the hospital’s staff, the posting of flyers approved by the FDA and IRB at the hospital and the presentation of clinical trial information to the hospital’s medical staff.

Sisley needs Shulkin to encourage Nelson to cooperate with her PTSD cannabis research so that the study doesn’t violate the timeline stipulated by the Colorado grant that is funding it.

“If we cannot recruit enough veterans, we will need to change the inclusion criteria to allow subjects with PTSD from any cause to enroll in the study. This is a change that we do not want to make if at all possible,” Sisley added.

Sisley had hoped to speak with Shulkin in person at a recent American Legion convention in Reno, but that meeting never happened, as reported by The Cannabist. While Sisley and Shulkin didn’t meet, the American Legion did pass a resolution that asks the federal government to “permit VA medical providers to be able to discuss with veterans the use of marijuana for medical purposes and recommend it in those states where medical marijuana laws exist.” The veterans organization passed a similar resolution last year.

Shulkin has previously indicated that “we’re interested in looking at [medical cannabis] and learning from that, but until time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

If Shulkin doesn’t intervene, it’s unclear as to whether Sisley’s PTSD cannabis research will be able to move forward. With Veterans Affairs reporting that 20 U.S. military veterans commit suicide each day, a delay in researching potential treatment options for PTSD would not benefit veterans.

Caroline Cahill is the Managing Editor of MJINews. She earned her BA in Communications from College of Charleston and her MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has previously worked in higher education, development and radio. You can follow her on Twitter @CtheresaC.

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