HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html MDS Balk At Dispensing Marijuana
Pubdate: Fri, 11 Jul 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Brian Laghi
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Doctors Fret Over Burglaries, Being Hassled By Patients To Release The Drug

OTTAWA -- Doctors who have already taken a risk by helping their patients 
get authorization to use marijuana are balking at a federal request to 
store and dispense the drug.

"I won't do it," said Brian Cornelson, a doctor who has in the past signed 
affidavits on behalf of patients who need the drug.

"This whole idea of having us dispense is ludicrous."

Dr. Cornelson made his comments yesterday as at least one patient filled 
out the required forms to get the drug.

The Toronto man, who is HIV positive, was able to find a doctor who agreed 
to handle the drug.

However, Dr. Cornelson and other physicians interviewed said the federal 
government plan is nonetheless worrisome on many fronts.

They said they are concerned about being burgled and/or pressured by 
patients to release the drug.

Moreover, they will be bucking the recommendations of the Canadian Medical 
Association, whose leadership said this week they shouldn't dispense the drug.

Doctors who have signed affidavits to help patients obtain affidavits have 
already done so despite the concerns of the Canadian Medical Protective 
Association, which defends doctors against litigation.

The organization is concerned about future lawsuits from patients who might 
suffer unintended side effects from the drug.

Dr. Cornelson, who operates a practice in Toronto, said doctors who agree 
to dispense the drug will be concerned that news they are doing so will get 
out and they will become robbery targets. He added that doctors are also in 
a quandary over the quantity of marijuana individual patients need to 
ameliorate the symptoms of their disease.

"We're being put in a position of regulating something we have no knowledge 
of in terms of dosage," he said.

"If this is the best they can come up with -- the Health Canada people -- 
they must be smoking it themselves."

Under the plan, Ottawa is preparing to release the drug in 30-gram packets 
to those individuals who need medical marijuana and can't grow it 
themselves or can't find others to do so. The drug will cost patients $5 a 
gram. Ottawa is also prepared to make marijuana seeds available.

Another doctor said he is willing to dispense the drug but only under 
extraordinary conditions.

"I don't think it's an optimum situation, but I guess under exceptional 
circumstances I might," Mark Latowsky said.

Dr. Latowsky, who has also supported applications for the drug, said the 
federal government should have the marijuana distributed through pharmacies.

"Doctors should write a prescription for it, the patient should pick up the 
prescription, go to the pharmacist, the pharmacist should dispense however 
much the physician is prescribing and the physician should follow the 
patient just like any other patient."

A spokesman for the federal government, Jirina Vlk, said the Health 
Department decided against going the pharmacy route because the program is 
an interim one and it was felt that widespread distribution was not warranted.

Ottawa has said it could take as little as a week for the drug to be 
delivered to authorized patients, a prediction that will immediately be 
tested by a Toronto man, who said yesterday he had found a doctor to accept 
the drug on his behalf.

Jari Dvorak, 62, said he needs the drug to help with nausea and felt lucky 
to have found a doctor.

"He was concerned," said Mr. Dvorak, who is HIV-positive. "But I guess I am 
an exception with an exceptional doctor."

The organization that defends doctors against lawsuits has already 
expressed concern about physicians who help patients get exemptions.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom