Pre­scrib­ing pot in Al­berta a tall task, de­spite le­gal sta­tus

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Alberta - BY GIL­LIAN SLADE South­ern Al­berta News­pa­pers

Medicine Hat’s pain spe­cial­ist says while cannabis is now le­gal in Canada, when it comes to med­i­cal cannabis Al­berta is the only prov­ince with strict pro­to­cols for doc­tors pre­scrib­ing it.

Ev­ery time Dr. Gay­lord Wardell, anes­the­si­ol­o­gist and pain spe­cial­ist, or any other doc­tor pre­scribes med­i­cal cannabis, there are reg­u­la­tions to com­ply with and it must be re­ported to the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons of Al­berta (CPSA).

“The only prov­ince in Canada that has that reg­u­la­tion and their (CPSA) ex­cuse is cannabis is highly dan­ger­ous so they bet­ter keep an eye on it,” said Wardell. “Med­i­cal cannabis is safer than an­tibi­otics, safer than an­ti­in­flam­ma­to­ries, safer than an­tide­pres­sants, safer than al­most any other drug pre­scribed and yet be­cause of the war on drugs they thought they could get away with this, and they have.”

Dr. Karen Mazurek, deputy regis­trar CPSA, says it was a coun­cil de­ci­sion to mon­i­tor the pre­scrib­ing of med­i­cal cannabis as part of its trip­li­catepre­scrip­tion mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram al­ready in place for med­i­ca­tions such as opi­oids.

“I know we are an out­lier,” said Mazurek.

CPSA’s web­site states doc­tors pre­scrib­ing cannabis must be reg­is­tered with them, use and find con­ven­tional ther­a­pies in­ef­fec­tive, as­sess the pa­tient’s risk of ad­dic­tion, re­ceive in­formed con­sent, re­view the pa­tient’s med­i­ca­tion his­tory, com­ply with fed­eral and pro­vin­cial reg­u­la­tions, and com­plete a pa­tient’s med­i­cal doc­u­ment.

The “doc­u­ment” con­tains the pa­tient’s first and last name, date of birth, health num­ber, de­tails of the physi­cian, ad­dress where pa­tient be­ing treated, med­i­cal symp­toms the cannabis is for, daily quan­tity to be used, pe­riod of use – weeks, months and not to ex­ceed one year – the physi­cian’s sig­na­ture and date. The pa­tient must be seen at least ev­ery three months and the doc­u­ment must be sub­mit­ted to CPSA within a week.

“Why do we have a Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms in Canada when we have a Col­lege that can spit on that … They’ve been given this sa­cred trust and they’ve had it for so long that no one has ever chal­lenged it,” said Wardell.

Mazurek points out the re­quire­ments were put in place be­fore the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis and it may be re­viewed in fu­ture.

Wardell was so con­cerned about CPSA’s re­quire­ments that he wrote a let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau. A re­ply stated it was a pro­vin­cial health mat­ter.

“Trudeau sent the let­ter to Sarah Hoff­man, for­mer min­is­ter of health. She sent me a let­ter say­ing I would have to dis­cuss this with Scott McLeod the regis­trar at the Col­lege,” said Wardell.

Re­gard­ing the per­sonal pa­tient in­for­ma­tion CPSA is re­ceiv­ing and stor­ing, Mazurek says a full im­pact as­sess­ment has been done on this.

There are only two of­fi­cially trained des­ig­nated and cer­ti­fied pain spe­cial­ists in the prov­ince: Dr. Dan Gray and Wardell. Other fam­ily doc­tors have de­vel­oped a level of ex­per­tise treat­ing pain.

Medicine Hat Re­gional Hos­pi­tal has a pain clinic but in Novem­ber 2017 the wait was 18-24 months. Al­berta Health Ser­vices then an­nounced it would no longer be ac­cept­ing new pa­tients. Ear­lier this year the News re­quested an in­ter­view re­gard­ing the cur­rent state of the hos­pi­tal pain clinic but that was not granted. An­other re­quest was made last week. So far there has been no re­sponse.

The News re­quested an in­ter­view with Min­is­ter of Health Tyler Shan­dro last week. There has been no re­sponse.

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