HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html MDs Refuse To Prescribe Medicinal Pot
Pubdate: Thu, 31 Oct 2002
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: The Windsor Star 2002
Author: Craig Pearson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


Medical marijuana is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in Canada 
because many doctors are refusing to sign the prescriptions, say frustrated 

David, a Lakeshore resident, said the drug he credits with relieving 
chronic leg pain from multiple sclerosis is being denied to him because 
doctors are afraid of lawsuits.

Without prescriptions, he and other patients may have to turn to illegal 
marijuana sources for relief, David said.

He said Health Canada granted him an exemption last year to obtain 
marijuana because it agreed it would help his medical condition.

"Then they turn around, knowing full well that I'm not going to get better 
- -- and make it impossible for me to keep the exemption."

David said he and his wife Sandra (not their real names) have made it a 
part-time job to find a specialist who will sign his 25-page medical 
marijuana renewal form. The doctor who suggested marijuana in the first 
place, a neurologist at an MS clinic in London, will not re-sign, citing 
potential lawsuits.

Health Canada began giving exemptions on compassionate grounds in 1999 to 
seriously ill patients -- suffering severe pain with MS, spinal cord 
injuries, HIV/AIDS, cancer, arthritis and epilepsy -- who were not getting 
results with traditional medication.

New regulations

A new set of rules aimed at easing access to medicinal pot -- the Marijuana 
Medical Access Regulations -- were introduced July 30, 2001. Exemptions 
under the regulations require a doctor's signature or, depending on the 
condition, two specialists' signatures.

But two months after the rules came into effect, the Canadian Medical 
Association and the Canadian Medical Protective Association advised their 
members not to sign medical marijuana applications unless they felt 
particularly knowledgeable about cannabis.

"Our focus is on the patient," said Dr. Dana Hanson, president of the 
Canadian Medical Association. "We're here for a healthy Canadian 
population. We're not here to experiment on them. The Canadian Medical 
Association did not feel that there was compelling, reasoned, sound, 
scientific evidence to support medical marijuana. But the CMA strongly 
supports looking into research into this area."

Licences to possess and cultivate marijuana must be renewed every year and 
many of the first licences are expiring. But without language absolving 
doctors of liability -- as is the case in the eight U.S. states allowing 
medical marijuana -- doctors fear they could be sued for malpractice if a 
patient were to have an adverse reaction.

"Basically, Health Canada is putting the onus on physicians to be the 
judges of whether or not to prescribe something that has not been tested, 
so that does put a physician at risk and it certainly puts a patient at 
risk," said Barbara Wilson, spokeswoman for the Canadian Medical Protective 
Association. "We don't know exact dosages, we don't know how it interacts 
with other drugs. There's lots of clinical information we don't know 
because these studies don't exist."

Health Canada launched clinical studies into medical marijuana Oct. 9, 
through the Community Research Initiative of Toronto, which focuses on 
people with HIV/AIDS.

Why do patients seek marijuana as therapy?

"I'm in pain 24/7," said David, who has tried many pain relievers without 
success. "It's just a little bit of relief when I come home.

"It's the difference between having a life and not having a life."


Marijuana Medical Access Regulations started: July 30, 2001

Number of "authorizations to possess" granted: 405

Number still active: 403

Number of exemptions given since 1999 under old system: 666

Number still active: 376

Total number of Canadians currently allowed medical marijuana: 779

- -- Health Canada
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom