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MD role in use of medical marijuana – aka Health Canada doesn’t care what we think!

March 15, 2013

Both the CMA and CFPC have taken strong and clear stances regarding the role of physicians in prescribing medical marijuana in Canada, largely in response to the changes that Health Canada is planning to enact in 2014. Despite a consultation process that included the CMA, Health Canada and Minister Aglukkaq propose that to help protect the system from abuse,

“Health care practitioners will be able to sign a medical document similar to a prescription, and then patients can purchase the appropriate amount from an authorized vendor. The new system would cut red tape for individuals and ensure that they have access to marihuana for medical purposes produced under quality controls while streamlining the process for applicants and health care practitioners.” (from Health Canada)

What that statement doesn’t explicitly say is that it is shifting the responsibility from the government onto physicians; this in in direct opposition to the recommendations the CMA provided during the consultation. It also comes after a survey of physicians  indicated that we are as a group uncomfortable about the lack of evidence and safety in prescribing such a substance. More than half of those surveyed reported “they have insufficient information about the appropriate use of marijuana for medicinal purposes” which, if I was doing the survey I would have selected, reflecting my feelings that “I can’t justify it, medically.”

CMA President Anna Reid summarized this problem well, from the CMA news archives:

Reid argues that the federal government is simply “dumping the responsibility” for medical marijuana use into doctors’ laps after initially establishing the program that gave patients access to the drug for medical purposes.

“Not only does prescribing drugs that haven’t been clinically tested fly in the face of medical training and ethics, but marijuana’s potential benefits and adverse effects have not been rigorously tested.”

If people want to smoke marijuana, they can choose to do that. However, as a physician I am not prepared to be prescribing an untested, not quality-controlled, non evidence-based, potentially harmful substance. Making physicians responsible for providing access to Medical Marijuana is especially unjustified given that there exist synthetic versions that were tested through normal clinical drug trials; these medications offer the same potential benefits in the treatment of, for example, chemotherapy related nausea and anorexia.

The CFPC’s full statement can found here, but I’d like to re-post it here since I could not have said it better myself:

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 9.26.33 PM Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 9.26.45 PM

On American comedy TV shows and in movies, MJ using characters often try to pass their (illegal) weed off as prescription for glaucoma. Call me a grumpy narc but can’t they just use eyedrops? Even the Glaucoma Research Foundation says that’s bogus… you’d have to smoke up q3h to reach therapeutic levels!

NSFW Vid:. Why does everyone suddenly have glaucoma?

What do you think?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2013 10:48 pm

    Wow man! … Far out! ; )

    • March 15, 2013 11:33 pm

      I put the video there to completely destroy any credibility I had with this post. Well, not really, I just wanted to lighten the tone of the post a little!

      I think it is a serious issue and while I have a lot of patients in BC and Nunavut who choose to use it relationally, I would hope that those who need cannabinoids for medical reasons will remain open to the idea of synthetic analogues. So far this has been the case. Those who want it for the high are welcome to chose it, and I can counsel them about the risks, but I’d rather it not be masked as a faux-medical inquiry, and I will NEVER be their ‘dealer.’ In proposing the changes they have, Health Canada puts physicians in a very awkward position. So… we’ve gotta have a laugh about something!

  2. March 16, 2013 12:54 am

    ; ) A lot of Pot clinics have sprung up where its been legalized in some US States. But its illegal and the Federal level so what to do? Kind of like the prohibition days. Jails are over stuffed with potheads here so criminal laws about its use need changing. The war on drugs and Dept of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have large flows of $ into their institutionalized operations to lobby against in changes that could cost job. Doc get stuck in the middle. The way to go is put the active ingredient into happy pills and have them dispense by prescription or just tax it and sell them like booze.

  3. June 9, 2013 9:30 pm

    I like the video at the end, it lightens the mood! And I agree pot may help but without further testing we cannot be completely sure how much it helps

  4. June 10, 2013 9:22 pm

    At least Canada is smart and admits that they are not sure if pot is truly helpful

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