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Medical marijuana? Pharmacists are in the best position to get this right

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There’s a long road to travel before broader availability of medical marijuana is a reality in Canada.

But the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada (Neighbourhood Pharmacies) is working now to ensure the best outcomes for patients and the community.

First, more research is required so that Health Canada and all other stakeholders can be fully aware of the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana,” says Justin Bates, Chief Executive Officer of Neighbourhood Pharmacies. “There’s no clear consensus here, so don’t expect liberalized distribution to be either quick or easily accomplished.”

Treating medical marijuana as a prescription drug supports the rationale for involving Neighbourhood Pharmacies in developing the framework for making it available to Canadian patients through their community pharmacies, Bates added.

As experts in medication and medication management, our members’ pharmacists help prescribers and patients alike get the best results from their prescription medications. That expertise can include therapeutic substitution, as well as counselling on dosage, frequency, delivery route and when to take medications in relation to meals, as well as practical advice on safe product handling and disposal.

Neighbourhood pharmacies also have sophisticated drug-interaction and dispensing software systems available to monitor patients and track medication use, and to identify and prevent potentially harmful drug interactions. Like many other therapeutic products, medical marijuana is known to have serious side effects and potential interactions.

Canada’s neighbourhood pharmacies benefit from an established distribution system that already handles controlled substances safely and reliably, so this is another important argument in favour of routing any potential sale of medical marijuana through pharmacies.

In-store, our members use sophisticated inventory management practices to safeguard stocks of controlled substances, as well as to prevent and detect product diversions or theft.

Ultimately and if approved, any future sale of medical marijuana through the neighbourhood pharmacy channel will be a decision for individual businesses.
With a Health Canada regulatory framework in place to enable distribution of medical marijuana through neighbourhood pharmacies, we believe that patients’ safety and clinical interests will be best served.