Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jun 2017
Source: Guardian, The (CN PI)
Copyright: 2017 The Guardian, Charlottetown Guardian Group Incorporated
Author: Teresa Wright
Page: A1


Dr. Hendrik Visser, WCB medical adviser, says board seeing increasing
claims for coverage of medical cannabis

The medical adviser for the Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I. says
he believes the jury is still out on the effectiveness of medical marijuana.

Dr. Hendrik Visser is responsible for reviewing cases and providing
medical opinions on injury claims submitted to the WCB in Prince
Edward Island.

During a presentation at the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) annual
meeting in Charlottetown Monday, Visser raised concern about the
increasing perception of cannabis as a "magic bullet" among physicians.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions about medical marijuana. There
are proven benefits, but there are also big gaps in the research in
terms of double blind studies that show their effectiveness," he said.
He pointed to other drugs seen as miracle cures in times past that
proved later to be harmful and addictive, including opium in the
1800s, Valium in the 1960s and Oxycontin in the 1990s.

He suggested medical marijuana could prove to become a similar
pharmaceutical "crisis."

"In the '90s, opioids were seen as great potential for dealing with
chronic pain, and now we have a crisis. And right now there's a hope
that cannabis, or medical marijuana, is a solution to a lot of health
issues. And it is for some, but not all.

"There's a hope that it is a "magic bullet," which it isn't. It has
moderate effects for some conditions, but we don't know what the
future holds because strains are being grown that are more potent,"
Visser said.

"There's a lot of unknowns, and history may repeat

He says the WCB was given a legal opinion that employers have a "duty
to accommodate" employees who take medically prescribed marijuana "to
a point of undue hardship," but also noted this definition is murky.

When it comes to Workers Compensation Board claims, Visser noted
requests for WCB coverage of medical marijuana are increasing.

"The requests are rising, with the current media attention and with
the current prescribing practices since medical marijuana has been
legalized in Canada," he said, adding that not all requests for
medical or surgical coverage are accepted.

When asked how his personal views might influence WCB claims involving
medical marijuana, Visser says the board will look to other
jurisdictions for guidance and hopes to see more "double blind"
studies performed on the effectiveness of cannabis as a medical treatment.

"We will be cautious, and other boards across the country are being
cautious, and we will review the research and make what we feel, based
on our colleagues across the country, the best decisions for injured
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