Canada’s New Medical Marijuana Rules Cut Homegrowers, Pharmacists Out

Canada announces new medical marijuana rules

Health Canada said since the medical marijuana program was introduced in 2001, it has expanded to 30,000 people from the original 500 authorized to use the product. “This rapid increase has had unintended consequences for public health, safety and security as a result of allowing individuals to produce marijuana in their homes,” the department said in a news release. “Under the new regulations, production will no longer take place in homes and municipal zoning laws will need to be respected, which will further enhance public safety.” Under the new regulations, the government will allow patients to buy prescribed amounts only from licensed growers who will be required to meet strict conditions. In previous versions of the regulations, pharmacies were to distribute the product just like other medications, provoking concern from pharmacists, who expressed concerns about dispensing a product without sufficient research. They also cited security concerns. The final version removes the pharmacists from the loop, leaving patients to rely on mail order for their medical marijuana. “While the courts have said that there must be reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana for medical purposes, we believe that this must be done in a controlled fashion in order to protect public safety,” Aglukkaq said in a statement. “These changes will strengthen the safety of Canadian communities while making sure patients can access what they need to treat serious illnesses.” She used similar reasoning last week when she introduced new hurdles for the creation of supervised drug-injection sites in response to a court ruling. Physicians and pharmacists alike questioned the regulatory changes, saying there is little evidence that medical marijuana is either effective or safe. The umbrella group representing the country’s colleges of physicians and surgeons said the changes won’t protect people. “We believe that the new federal medical marijuana regulations put patients and the general public at risk,” Dr. Rocco Gerace, president of the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada, said in a statement. “Physicians should not be asked to prescribe or dispense substances or treatments for which there is little or no evidence of clinical efficacy or safety.” In December, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Anna Reid, described the proposed marijuana rules as “akin to asking doctors to write prescriptions while blindfolded.” “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.” The Canadian Pharmacists Association responded in February to a set of draft rules.

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Liver specialists urge hepatitis C screening strategy in Canada

The authors said Baby Boomers are the most likely group to have hepatitis C, though most infected individuals dont know they have the illness. Early treatment can cure hepatitis C, but the advanced stage of the disease can cause liver damage. Baby boomers are much more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than other age groups, Jordan Feld, one of the authors of the article, said. Most people who have the infection have no or very few symptoms even if theyve been infected for decades. Without symptoms, many infected people have no idea they have the disease until its too late. In the article, the authors presented arguments and data in favor of developing and implementing a national screening program for hepatitis C in Canada. The currently recommended Canadian approach is to test based on risk factors, such as receiving blood transfusions or blood products before 1992, using injection drugs or receiving piercings or tattoos in an unclean environment. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended screening all individuals born between 1945 and 1965 for hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C has the greatest impact of all infectious disease in Ontario, even more so than HIV, influenza virus or human papillomavirus, Hemant Shah, the clinic and education director of the Francis Family Liver Clinic in Toronto Western Hospital, said. Its a life-changing diagnosis, yet there is a huge gap in public and healthcare provider awareness about the disease, its implications and the treatment options for patients. The authors pointed out that risk-factor based screening was not successful in other countries, including the U.S. and Europe. The authors said the U.S. adopted the new policy after showing that identifying infected people and treating them early could save lives and money. Now is the time to consider a national screening strategy, Feld said. This silent epidemic can be prevented and many more lives could be saved with Baby Boomer screening, follow-up treatment and a major education campaign. Feld and Shah also pointed out that awareness about the illness should be improved among healthcare professionals.

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