OTTAWA, June 10, 2013 /CNW/ - Canada's doctors worry that today's announcement of new regulations to govern the use of medical marijuana ignores the fact that there is no clinical evidence to back up its use as a medical therapy.
This approach runs contrary to Canadians' position on this issue as reported in an Ipsos Reid poll conducted for the CMA earlier this year. The poll found that 85 per cent of Canadians believe that medical marijuana should go through the same rigorous testing and approval as other medicines.
Asking physicians to prescribe drugs that have not been clinically tested runs contrary to their training and ethics. Expecting doctors to write prescriptions for marijuana without the existence of such evidence is akin to asking them to work blindfolded and potentially jeopardize the safety of patients.
Marijuana is a complex substance with strains that vary greatly in power and effect, but we have no information on potency, dosage or how it interacts with other therapies. The beneficial effects of marijuana have not been rigorously tested and it has a huge potential to cause harm. With the federal government vacating its role, there is no one to certify that the drug will not harm the patient.
Federal rules and regulations dictate that before a drug may be prescribed, rigorous research and testing must be undertaken to establish safety and efficacy - this research includes clinical trials. As a result of the rigorous research requirements, physicians know how much to prescribe, what the benefits are and what the side effects could be. None of that information exists for marijuana. We don't even know what is in the various strains of marijuana.
The Ipsos Reid poll also found that almost eight in 10 Canadians agreed that Health Canada, as the body that approves prescription medicines for safety and efficacy, should maintain its current role in authorizing the use of medical marijuana for patients.
Patients would not want us to prescribe drugs for heart disease, cancer, or any other illness without the scientific evidence to back those drugs up. Why does the federal government want us to do so with marijuana?
The use of medical marijuana has grown because there aren't better treatments for people battling chronic pain. This is an area that definitely needs greater attention. The federal government will not help address this lack by abdicating its responsibility to protect the health of Canadians.
Let me be clear that physicians are deeply concerned that many patients have great difficulty in their battles with chronic pain. Clearly there is a need for more effective pain treatments. The CMA has been asking for years that marijuana be treated the same as any other drug and its use backed up by research and clinical trials. The federal government will not help address this lack of evidence by abdicating its responsibility to protect the health of Canadians.
Dr. Anna Reid
President, Canadian Medical Association
SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association
For further information:
Lucie Boileau, Senior Advisor, Communications and Public Outreach
Tel.: 800-663-7336 / 613-731-8610 ext. 1266