Pharmacists in Quebec say patients should get medical cannabis from them, not by mail

Pharmacists in Quebec are calling on their provincial government to include measures in the province’s pot regulations that would change

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Pharmacists in Quebec are calling on their provincial government to include measures in the province’s pot regulations that would change the way medical cannabis is distributed.

In separate news releases dated January 16 and 17, both the Quebec Association of Proprietor Pharmacists (AQPP) and the Quebec Order of Pharmacsits (OPQ) detailed their shared stance on the future of distribution of medical cannabis in Quebec and beyond.

They’re arguing that because medical cannabis is not a ‘commonplace’ product, its distribution requires the attention of pharmacists.

‘Like any other prescription product, therapeutic cannabis has features that only a pharmacist can handle,’ said AQPP president Jean Thiffault in the group’s release.

According to the AQPP, only trained pharmacists are able to evaluate the efficacy of a given medication and adjust doses to prevent adverse effects that might occur with other medications.

The group reports that—based on a December 2017 survey of 1,004 Quebecers—48 percent of residents in the province support the distribution of medical cannabis in pharmacies, while just four percent believe that it should be sold online and delivered by mail, as the current system operates. There are currently about 6,300 registered medical cannabis users in the province.

AQPP executive chairman and CEO Jean Bourcier said the organization would lend its full support to the Quebec government ‘to convince the federal government to put an end to the distribution of cannabis for therapeutic purposes by mail, without the supervision of a health professional’.

Similarly, the president of the OPQ, Bertrand Bolduc, said that despite the ‘special status of medical cannabis’, its users should have the same access to pharmacists that users of other drugs do.

‘That’s why we are asking the Quebec government to accompany us in representation for an amendment to the federal regulations,’ Bolduc said in the release.

But Adam Greenblatt, Quebec brand manager for Canopy Growth Corporation, told the Straight by phone that pharmacy associations are overlooking the role that physicians play in authorizing medical cannabis.

While he said that Canada’s largest licensed producer is not opposed to pharmacies distributing cannabis, he doesn’t believe that pharmacists have an exclusive role to play.

‘Reading the press release, one is left with the impression that there’s no follow-up or any kind of evaluation of the medication that a patient is on,’ he said. ‘The decision to use cannabis as a medicine is clearly made between a patient and a doctor.’

He agreed that distributing cannabis from pharmacies could theoretically increase access for patients, and even help to destigmatize use, but without the same cost-coverage mechanisms that are available to patients using other drugs, or a specific drug-identification number (DIN) for cannabis products, selling cannabis in a pharmacy wouldn’t necessarily fix problems of access and stigma.

Despite these limitations, Greenblatt said that he and others at Canopy anticipate that pharmacists will begin dispensing medical cannabis in the next few years.

‘We produce cannabis and cannabis medicine to pharmaceutical standards, and we’re well poised to supply pharmacists as well in a future that would allow it.’

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