Doctors rejects marijuana initiative
Saskatchewan News Network; Regina Leader-Post
Friday, July 11, 2003
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Medical Association is uncomfortable with the federal government's decision to supply marijuana to those in need of pain relief.
"I'm not convinced the courts are the best people to make a health decision . . . physicians weren't part of this process," said Marcus Davies, the association's spokesperson.
The federal government announced Wednesday it would be making the drug available to patients for $5 a gram in response to a court ruling earlier this year. Drugs will be distributed by courier to doctors in pre-packaged 30-gram bags and be limited to the amount the physician says is required to treat the condition.
The SMA, however, isn't supportive of the new federal initiative for reasons ranging from liability to lack of clinical research.
"The issue is embroiled in controversy. . . . The courts are forcing this decision without much clinical knowledge," said Davies. "(Doctors) studied a lot of prescription drugs in medical school but they never studied marijuana."
Research trials to study the medicinal benefits of the drug will begin this fall. Davies said it will take years to fully understand the effects of marijuana properly.
"The courts are causing us to skip a few steps. . . . We don't know what conditions or symptoms a patient would have to have to prescribe it. . . . Do we say smoke two or three joints a day before meals? We don't know," he said.
Because so little is known about the drug, physicians are concerned about liability, said Davies. "We don't know what any of the side-effects are . . . anything you take into your lungs that alters your physiological and your emotional state, that affects your heart rate, is always a concern."
Davies said even if a patient asked for marijuana, he would doubt many doctors would prescribe it.
"There are about 10,000 drugs out there, but the average physician will maybe only prescribe about a 100 of them regularly because these are the ones he or she is most familiar with," he said.
Davies said doctors are also concerned the drugs could make their way back on to the street.
"There is a massive illegal market out there . . . the doctor will have to make sure they only prescribes enough for the patient's use only."
© Copyright 2003 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)