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CPhA disappointed medical cannabis regime does not enhance patient safety

OTTAWA, April 13, 2017 /CNW/ - The focus of government legislation and regulation in the area of cannabis must be to protect and enhance safety. While the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is pleased that today's federal legislation maintains a separate stream for medical cannabis, we are concerned and disappointed that the legislation fails to enhance patient safety by providing appropriate clinical oversight in the management and dispensing of medical cannabis in Canada.

CPhA believes that a frontline role for pharmacists in the management and dispensing of medical cannabis is in the best interest of patient safety. Pharmacists have the necessary expertise to mitigate the potential risks associated with using medical cannabis, including harmful drug interactions, contraindications and potential addictive behaviour. By not moving to ensure appropriate clinical oversight, CPhA believes that patient health will continue to be at risk under the current system.

Canadians are strongly in favour of pharmacist dispensing of medical cannabis, and an independent assessment by KPMG concludes that where recreational cannabis is legal, pharmacist oversight of medical cannabis is even more important to protect patient and public safety. Furthermore, pharmacy already has the systems in place to safely handle and store narcotic drugs in accordance with federal regulations.

Experience in international jurisdictions has demonstrated that pharmacist dispensing of medical cannabis where recreational cannabis is legal will help limit the emergence of a grey market and protect the medical system against abuse by recreational users.

The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recognized that patients' use of cannabis is different from recreational users. The Task Force also recognized that pharmacists can play an important role in the management and distribution of cannabis for medical use. CPhA is disappointed that the federal government did not take advantage of this opportunity to expedite the necessary changes to the medical access regime.

As health care professionals and drug experts, pharmacists also applaud the government for including recommendations to protect the health and safety of recreational users. CPhA has always supported public education, minimum age for legal purchase, clear product warnings, and training for retail staff and we are pleased to see this reflected in the legislation. However, the government needs to provide more clarity on pricing, product warnings, and training for sales staff.

CPhA believes that ensuring public health and safety must be the priority for the medical cannabis regime. Maintaining the status quo, without a role for pharmacist dispensing, runs contrary to international best practices and misses the mark to improve patient safety.

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About the Canadian Pharmacists Association

The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is the uniting national voice of pharmacy and the pharmacist profession in Canada. As pharmacists undertake an enhanced role in the delivery of health care services, CPhA ensures that the profession is recognized as a national leader in health care, influencing the policies, programs, budgets and initiatives affecting the profession and the health of Canadians. More information is available at www.pharmacists.ca