New Statistics Show Growth in the Alberta Medical Marijuana Program, but the Amount of Prescribing Physicians Remains the Same
New reports on the Alberta medical marijuana program show that there was a 50 percent increase in the number of medical marijuana prescriptions issued between 2016 and 2017.
However, the amount of prescribing physicians has decreased from 358 to 357. Those numbers only represent approximately 4 percent of all doctors in Alberta, Canada.
Ed Jess, director of prescribing and analytics with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta(CPSA), explained that although some doctors are comfortable prescribing the drug to their patients’ others remain skeptical.
“There’s not much in the literature with respect to medical cannabis that talks about specific indications, or specific patients that might benefit from the product.”
“So we’re not really surprised that those patients would then be referred on to somebody who has more experience or understands the product better.”
Jess states that along with opioids and benzodiazepines, medical marijuana is one of the drugs that the college monitors, because of the high possibilities of misuse.
Medical marijuana authorizations have been monitored since 2014 by the CPSA, however, the number of prescriptions issued in that year was only 825.
Regulations Under The CPSA
In order to monitor the public’s use of the drug the CPSA keeps in contact with doctors in the Alberta Medical Marijuana Program, who are the habit of prescribing large quantities of the drug.
This enables them to understand the reasoning behind the prescriptions being issued. Additionally, physicians who issue the prescription to persons under the age of 18 are required to complete a questionnaire.
So far only three registered doctors were referred to the CPSA professional conduct branch concerning medical marijuana prescriptions.
According to Health Canada, in 1999, the exemption in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act permitted dried cannabis to be used for medical purposes.
The Vice-President of Marijuana for Trauma, Tim Baxter, was not surprised by the growth in medical marijuana prescriptions
Marijuana for Trauma, which was founded by two Canadian Forces veterans, Fabian Henry and Mike Southwell, is a chain of medical cannabis clinics with locations in six provinces.
Baxter explained that more physicians are recognizing how helpful marijuana is for patients suffering ailments including chronic pain, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and gastrointestinal issues, but many are not sure which type of cannabis-based product to prescribe.
“It’s not like a pharmaceutical drug where it’s a formulated thing, it’s the same every time,”
Baxter, is a former combat engineer who served in Afghanistan. He added,
“It’s a plant , it’s not always the same. Unless you take the time to learn about it as a family doctor before you make that prescription, you shouldn’t be doing it. You should be referring to an expert.”
The reports show that there has been an increase in the average number of patients per physician. In 2016 there were 48 patients per doctor; In 2017 that number has increased by 50 percent.