Saskatchewan doctors raise concerns over prescribing medical marijuana

Saskatchewan doctors raise concerns over prescribing medical marijuana

If a doctor prescribes marijuana to a patient and that person is involved in a motor vehicle accident and seriously injures someone, is the physician liable? Dr. Geeta Achyuthan, a Regina physician, raised the question at the recent representative assembly of the Saskatchewan Medical Association in Regina.When doctors prescribe marijuana, it’s critical they warn their patients not to drive until they know what impact the substance will have on them, said Bryan Salte, associate registrar and legal counsel for the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons.”Recognizing the fact that it is a legally authorized substance and you are legally authorized to prescribe it, I don’t know how you could be held liable if the patient uses it inappropriately,” Salte said.Achyuthan is not the only doctor who is hazy about the ramifications of prescribing marijuana.During his presentation to SMA representatives, Salte read a statement from the College of Family Physicians of Canada: “Asking physicians to prescribe drugs that have not been clinically tested runs contrary to their training and ethics. Marijuana is a complex substance with strains that vary greatly in power and effect, but we have no information on potency, dosage or how it interacts with other therapies.”Another unknown is the outcome of a legal challenge that is playing out in the courts.Federal Court Judge Michael Manson ruled March 21 that anyone who was already authorized to possess marijuana could continue to grow their own or have another person grow for them.The judge granted an application from medical marijuana patients asking for a temporary injunction to preserve the status quo until their constitutional challenge of the new system could be heard.The court was primarily concerned with the evidence that marijuana would be unaffordable under the new system for many patients. That decision is under appeal, Salte said.In the meantime, the college has set standards about marijuana prescribing and those bylaws are now in effect.The college’s bylaw states there has not been sufficient scientific or clinical assessment to provide evidence about the safety and efficacy of marijuana for medical purposes, so physicians must be cautious about prescribing.Before doctors can prescribe marijuana, they must review the patient’s medical history, physically examine the patient and review information pertaining to the condition for which the use of marijuana is authorized.Patients must sign treatment agreements that say they won’t get marijuana from other sources, that they have been advised of the risks and benefits associated with marijuana and they are aware that marijuana is something of an untested therapy at the moment, Salte said.The patient’s record must include other treatments that have been attempted, their effect and the doctor’s opinion that the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from marijuana use.A doctor who prescribes marijuana to a patient must be treating that person for the condition he or she is authorized to use pot.For example, a doctor who prescribes marijuana for a patient with multiple sclerosis must be the treating physician for MS, Salte said. “They can’t be a storefront operation whose job it is to then prescribe marijuana and have no further contact with the patient,” he said.Nor can doctors simultaneously prescribe and sell marijuana.”If you choose to invest in a legal grow-op, then you can’t be a prescriber of marijuana,” Salte said.Saskatchewan doctors are required to keep a record of all medical marijuana prescriptions.The information must include the patient’s name, health services number and date of birth; the quantity and duration for which marijuana was prescribed; the medical condition for which the pot was prescribed and the name of the licensed producer from which the marijuana will be obtained, if known.A summary of the prescriptions must be submitted to the college once a year or, if doctors prescribe pot to more than 20 patients, every six months.Source:¬†

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