Prescribing pot in Alberta a tall task, despite legal status
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.