Pubdate: Tue, 01 Aug 2017
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Gillian Slade
Page: A3


Number of patients has more than doubled in Alberta compared to last

The number of patients for whom medical marijuana is being prescribed
has more than doubled in Alberta compared to last year, says the
College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta.

In 2015 there were 109 authorized physicians prescribing medical
marijuana for 1,750 patients. That would be the equivalent of 438
patients for every quarter of that year. In 2016 there were 329
physicians prescribing for 5,254 patients or 1,314 patients per
quarter, said Kelly Eby, spokesperson for CPSA. In the first three
months alone of this year, 178 physicians prescribed medical marijuana
for 2,845 patients.

There is definitely an increase in the number of patients seeking
medical marijuana, said Eby.

Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi, family physician in Medicine Hat, says she has
seen an increase in the number of patients asking for it. She has
patients with chronic pain who are on medical marijuana and the
feedback is they experience some relief.

"Nothing's perfect," said Rinaldi who does not prescribe medical
marijuana herself but refers patients to someone who does. "I would
say 50/50. It definitely helps with things such as sleep and anxiety.
This is an alternative. We're getting rid of something else."

Some patients may think they can stay on the sleeping pill as well as
the medical marijuana but that is not the case, said Rinaldi.

Not all her patients on medical marijuana used to be on opioids, said
Rinaldi. Some are seniors in their 80s.

Not all physicians can prescribe medical marijuana. They have to meet
a range of criteria to prescribe the drug. In fact CPSA does not call
it "prescribing" marijuana but rather "authorizing" and it is tracked
by CPSA.

"We know who is prescribing what to whom. It is one of the drugs we
track and oversee," said Eby.

It is not clear whether the increase in patients receiving medical
marijuana is related to the more stringent guidelines and monitoring
around prescriptions for opioids.

"I doubt very much it is related," said Eby noting the new guidelines
around opioid prescribing only clicked into place this spring. "I
think it is simply more patients are seeking this treatment and more
physicians are feeling comfortable with meeting all the necessary
requirements and the education and everything else that is needed to
do so safely."

In less than a year access to marijuana will be more freely available
anyway as a result of federal legislation announced by the Trudeau

There is a group of people who have been doing marijuana and think
accessing it by prescription is an excellent way to accommodate their
habit, said Rinaldi. When they discover medical marijuana is not going
to give them the "high" they want, it loses its appeal.
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