Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Medical Marijuana Debate

"I'm actually quite frightened. They've got product [Canada's 13 licensed marijuana producers] they have to move."
"So they've hired the best advertising firms. Now, they've got very professional, well-dressed men and women knocking on doctors' offices."
"There would have to be a clinical trial for its effect on depression, for its effect on joint pain. You'd have to have probably a thousand trials that would have to be repeated. If marijuana is so magical, then how come the trials aren't out there?"
"What started out as a cute little story about marijuana is turning into a frickin' [doctor...language!] nightmare. We just need one doctor to get killed over this, then it would make a great movie. I hope it's not me. I hope it's not any doctor. Or reporter."
"Maybe the best thing that could happen is Trudeau [Liberal leader who promises, if elected prime minister, to make marijuana growth and possession legal] gets elected and he legalizes it. We'd have a doped-up nation. We' probably have an increase in the sales of chips, so I guess I'd buy some stocks in chips and nachos. That's about the only good that would come of this."
Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, president, Canadian Medical Association

"We are not out there putting a hard sell on medical marijuana. There is information out there, and we're not making it up. It's to make doctors aware of that information. How they want to integrate it into their practise is up to them."
Chris Murray, director of business and medical development, Tweed, publicly traded medical marijuana producer

"The average family doctor has never learned how to prescribe medical marijuana. It's not taught in medical school."
"These people have an agenda, they want to sell it, they want to make money. They're not pushy. They're professional people. ... They're trying their best, but it's the wrong way to approach it."
Dr. Alykhan Abdulla, president, Academy of Medicine, Ottawa
World map of cannabis legality

Dr. Francescutti obviously is approaching the issue from a rather conservative perspective. Feeling that when appellate and Superior courts ruled that although federally marijuana remains illegal, its use for medical purposes for the relief of health-impairment symptoms, is legal, it turned a responsibility headache over to the health profession. Health Canada has acknowledged this, and though it began authorizing its use for specific individuals whose doctors confirmed marijuana proved useful to them, turned authorization directly over to the medical profession when the numbers of applicants overwhelmed their bureaucracy.

As far as he is concerned, the court system fell for a ruse meant to persuade them that marijuana possesses health benefits for disease sufferers. He considers the current situation where doctors are now free to prescribe medical marijuana for patients asking for such prescriptions to alleviate unbearable health-impacting symptoms and pain, is nothing less than "legalized dope pushing". Moreover, his well-known personal views have garnered him threatening emails.

In their own defence, Tweed, which produces and markets medical marijuana, has hired three "academic detailers" to routinely visit the offices of doctors and acquaint them with the product and its perceived benefits to patients. Its executive vice-president states that their detailers are "out there hitting the pavement, introducing who we are." Who they are is not quite pharmaceutical representatives: "We're a little different". Low key, eager and willing to inform.

Dr. Alykhan Abdulla, who has himself prescribed medical marijuana for some of his patients whom he deems it might be useful for, observes that over 90% of physicians would hesitate to prescribe it, uncertain of its benefits, and how it might impact on their patients. And he speaks of his experience with lobbying medical marijuana representatives, calls, emails and faxes; two or three of which he receives each week.

While Tweed has not developed formal trials, it is busy putting together a database listing the chemical contents of its different marijuana strains and adding to it feedback from both patients and doctors. To this, Dr. Francescutti claims the industry has "got nothing to do with medical properties. It's got everything to do with people wanting to smoke dope."

MedReleaf, another medical marijuana producer and distributor, also with official recognition through government authorization, is running 20 clinical trials. As well, it draws upon data from an international partner, Tikun Olam whose record stands behind its superior product, treating thousands of patients under Israel's medical marijuana system. When that data is made available to the medical profession through MedReleaf's representatives who attend conferences and physician-attendance events, many of those doctors "end up walking away converted".

Somewhere in this pull-me, push-you tangle lies the truth. And the truth may be precisely what each of the principles in this debate claims it to be.

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