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My View: Pursuit of pain relief proves very difficult

By Ed Dunlop

Pain entered my life in a big way 12 years ago after a failed foot operation. I soon learned that help to combat the resulting chronic pain was elusive at best.

Through years of beating the bushes in search of a competent pain doctor, I miraculously discovered a resourceful specialist from China. She immediately set about releasing me from the agony of my condition. Her answer was medical marijuana. She told me where to go online to enter the program, and from there I was on my own.

I entered into this remedy with amazement at the cost involved. A cartridge of marijuana that fits into an e-cigarette is approximately $100 and a tincture that goes under the tongue is approximately $50. The monthly cost is over $400. Of course, insurance would not cover any of this expense. These prices are three times those in California, where a relative of mine is on the medical marijuana program, and has been for several years.

Soon the further inadequacies of the New York State Marijuana Program hit me full force. My first interview at the heavily secured marijuana pharmacy took three hours. A security officer meets individuals at the door, and entry is limited only to those with a special card from the state.

The sit-down interview I endured to be allowed to purchase the drug I was already entitled to purchase by the state was overly lengthy and invasive.

After all of the interviewing and entering my information on the computer, the pharmacy said it would get back to me to set me up in a regular program. It never did.

One week later, I called the pharmacy and the staff had no idea who I was. Hard to understand since I was one of the first patients to grace their door and had just spent three long hours with them a few days before. It turned out they had lost my file. Unbelievable!

I had to do all of the information over again at a new pharmacy, which seems to be able to hold onto my file. Currently, there are only two marijuana pharmacies in Western New York, both with limited hours, and both in the Northtowns.

To add insult to injury, there is limited product and finding a doctor to refer you to the pharmacy is difficult at best.

The program finally started to work for me, but ongoing restrictions and paperwork errors – the doctor’s, not mine – have added incredible stress to my life. I made the long round trip to purchase more product recently, only to be turned away because my paperwork had an incorrect date on it.

As one of the earliest patients in the program, I needed a renewal form and it had been filled out by the doctor incorrectly. The new paperwork arrived. Then it was another long trip only to find out the prescription had been filled out incorrectly.

On each of these occasions, we attempted to contact the doctor so he could call the pharmacy to correct these errors so we did not have to waste the long trip.

Getting a phone message saying, “We will call you back soon” when you are in pain and in need of the medication is, indeed, a bit stressful.

The irony of all of this is that medical marijuana works for me. The program, however, is in need of a great deal of tweaking. It’s almost as if the people involved (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, New York State and the Department of Health) want this program to fail through the general incompetent and unfeeling manner in which it has been launched. I am hoping for better days.

Ed Dunlop, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, lives in South Buffalo with his wife and three bichons.
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