talking to your doctor

Making the decision to talk to your physician about medical cannabis can be intimidating. Whether you are a potential medical cannabis patient yourself or you are asking as a caregiver, you may be unsure how to have this conversation.

Although MedPharm Iowa is prohibited from referring you to any physician, the following information should help guide your discussion.

Note that in Iowa, any physician licensed to practice medicine and surgery or osteopathic medicine and surgery in Iowa may certify your condition, provided that the physician is your primary care provider. In practice, this means any provider with whom you have established a patient-physician relationship may certify your condition – it does not need to be any certain specialist.

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How to Talk to your Physician about Medical Cannabis

Don’t worry if approaching your physician to talk about medical cannabis make you nervous. Your health is most important, and it is vital that you find symptom relief that improves your quality of life, whether that’s with medical cannabis or another form of treatment.

Step 1

Begin by recapping your medical condition and history.

Remind your physician what specific condition you or your family member may have. Discuss your medical history, how long you have had the condition, pressing symptoms, and what medications or other treatment options you have tried in the past. It may be helpful to provide your physician with your medical records, if he or she doesn’t already have them.

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Step 2

Discuss alternative treatment options for your condition.

Be open in explaining why you may want to try medical cannabis, what you have learned, and that you understand that the product may not work for everyone.

Qualifying Conditions
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Step 3

Be knowledgeable about the certification form and bring a copy.

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Step 4

Understand the legal aspects of medical cannabis for Physicians.

Remind your physician that he or she is only responsible for certifying that you have one of the approved conditions.

Under federal law, medical cannabis may not be prescribed. In Iowa, though, physicians may certify a patient’s condition without risking their medical licenses, provided that they adhere to Iowa’s medical cannabis laws and the standard of care applicable to their practice.

Physicians
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Step 5

Show that you are aware of all aspects of medical cannabis treatment, including the benefits and potential side effects.

It may be beneficial to read, or provide your physician with a list of references discussing the use of medical cannabis. A condensed reference list can be found on MedPharm Iowa’s website. Additionally safeaccessnow.org also provides some nice references. Note that there is literature available on therapeutic use for some conditions, as well as theoretical drug interactions, pharmacology and toxicology of cannabis molecules. Research also indicates that concurrent use of medical cannabis with opioids has been found to be safe and may actually decrease the amount of opioid that is needed for effect.

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Step 6

Be polite but know when to move on.

While physicians are beginning to become more open about medical cannabis, it is possible that your physician may not certify your condition. This does not mean that the conversation should end. Be sure to ask questions such as:

  • What information might you want to see in order to become more comfortable?
  • Do you have any information that might suggest that medical cannabis might not be a beneficial option for my condition?
  • Have you, or are you planning on attending, any physician education on this topic?
  • Can I schedule a follow-up to discuss again?
  • Do you know of any physician in the area with whom I might discuss my condition?

If you have had multiple conversations with your physician and he or she is still not open to certifying your condition, reach out to other patients who may have your condition to see if they may have a referral or recommendation for you. Keep in mind that you will need to have a relationship with that physician before discussing certification of your condition.

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Step 7

Feel free to include us in the dialogue.

If your physician has questions about research, the Iowa program, or physician liability, feel free to connect your doctor with us. Your doctor, along with any other member of the community, can contact us directly at info@medpharmiowa.com, and we will be happy to connect them with resources and continuing education courses.

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example conversation

“As you know, after my knee replacement last year, I have had severe pain in my knee that radiates up to my hip. This pain is especially bad at night and impairs my sleeping. It is also very bad when I stand for long periods of time.

I am currently on opioids for pain management, but they are causing me side effects like constipation and nausea. I would like to explore other options.  

I’ve heard of the new medical cannabis program in Iowa that allows for legal use of some products for some conditions. The untreatable pain in my knee is an approved condition under Iowa law, and I need your verification of my untreatable pain on the Department of Public Health’s form in order to get my card. Would you mind if we walked through the certification form and discussed verification of my condition?

As we walk through the form, I think it is important to note that by signing this form you are only verifying that I do have one of the conditions that are approved by Iowa law – you are not prescribing anything. I will turn this form into the Department of Public Health and get my card from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

While I understand that medical cannabis won’t cure my condition, I would like an opportunity to see if it will relieve some of my symptoms. I’m planning to purchase products from MedPharm Iowa, which will allow me to utilize their health diary for tracking my use and symptom relief, along with any side effects. I would be happy to share this data with you so that we can find the best ways to treat my knee pain.