Pubdate: Thu, 01 Feb 2018
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Windsor Star
Author: Julie Kotsis
Page: A3


Expert panellist says many Windsor MDs not comfortable prescribing

Lauren Meadows was a young nursing student when her joint pain,
fevers, lack of dexterity and inability to lift even light objects
caught the attention of her instructors.

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, but only after her severe joint
damage was identified through X-rays, she struggled to manage her
pain, insomnia, fatigue and swelling around her joints.

Meadows tried lots of medications - enduring many side effects - until
a visit to the Arthritis Society website sent her on a path to medical
marijuana and the relief she was seeking.

Meadows shared her story with hundreds of people jammed
shoulder-to-shoulder, standing-roomonly at a forum on medical cannabis
Wednesday at the Caboto Club.

"Contrary to what some may think, patients such as myself aren't
looking to get high," said the busy working mother, wife and hobby
farmer who lives in Leamington.

"All you are looking for is relief from your symptoms - especially
pain - so you can get on with your life without being impaired."

Panellist Dr. Christopher Blue, one of the few physicians in Windsor
who prescribe medical marijuana, said a lot of health care providers
are afraid to prescribe cannabis to patients or are reluctant to learn
about it.

"It's not taught in medical school," said Blue, who has been
practising medicine for about 14 years.

He said many people, including him, grew up being told marijuana use
was wrong. But today the demand for the medical therapy, from what
he's seen, is growing exponentially and producers are working hard to
keep up.

"A concern is that the demand for cannabis at points is far greater
than the actual medical supply," he said. "Some licensed producers are
having a hard time keeping up with the demand."

In addition, the growing number of patients looking for information
from physicians and the relatively low number of doctors comfortable
prescribing it has increased the burden on those who do, Blue said.

He said he can think of only six physicians with practices in Windsor
who prescribe cannabis.

"When you're in a town where there's only a handful of docs that know
how to (prescribe) it and the demand is getting greater, that
bottleneck is very difficult to manage," he said.

By September of 2017, he had a nine-month waiting list for patients to
come in to see him for an initial visit. That is on top of all the
other patients he cares for in his practice as a family physician.

"The cannabis component basically cannibalized all the rest of my
practice because I was devoting all my time to that," he said.

"It got to a point where patients with significant disease …
debilitating disease, had to wait because there's only so many hours
in the day, so many days in the week. I could only burn myself out so

By September of last year he was forced to stop, re-evaluate and
re-work his practice so he could handle the heavy load.

Janet Yale, president and CEO of the Arthritis Society, which hosted
the free event, said the society got involved a few years ago because
the evidence showed more than 50 per cent of people who use medical
cannabis did it to alleviate arthritis pain.

"There was all this unmet demand," Yale said. "People didn't know how
to access it so we decided to get involved."

Yale said the society is seen as a leader in medical cannabis support
- - for research, access of information and affordability. Awareness is
being raised about the fact medical cannabis is taxed even though
other medicines aren't and most benefit plans won't pay for it.

Yale said as of Thursday the Arthritis Society will be providing
insurance coverage under a benefits plan for all its employees for
medical cannabis.

"We're doing that both because we think it's the right thing to do but
also then we're building the tool kit in a way so that other employers
can use it, insurers can use it, if they want to understand how to
build that into their benefits plans."
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MAP posted-by: Matt