The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is recommending that pharmacists play a front-line role in patient management and dispensing of medical marijuana. Such a role is needed to ensure that patients receive timely and appropriate access, education and clinical oversight.
“Pharmacists are medication experts and play a critical role in the management and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use,” says Phil Emberley, Director of Professional Affairs, Canadian Pharmacists Association. “And it is patient safety that is ultimately at the heart of CPhA’s decision to update its position on the role of pharmacists in the management and dispensing of medical marijuana.”
The evolution of CPhA’s position was informed by three main considerations: First, the views of its members and their increasing concern about the lack of appropriate clinical oversight regarding the use of medical marijuana and its implication on patient health and safety. Second, the findings of an independent commissioned report that identifies that the management and dispensing of medical marijuana by pharmacists is the best option to enhance patient safety and access for Canada; and third, confirmation that Canadians want and trust pharmacists to play a key role in the management and dispensing of medical marijuana from a public opinion survey commissioned by CPhA earlier this year.
“Pharmacists are the safest and best equipped to provide clinical advice to patients and provide appropriate oversight. Pharmacist involvement in dispensing of medical marijuana would help identify potential problems such as drug interactions, alternative therapies, contraindications and potential addictive behavior, and provide the opportunity for patient counselling on appropriate use,” added Emberley. “As well, pharmacists have an existing infrastructure that is already in place to handle controlled substances and have a secure supply chain to limit diversion.”
CPhA is committed to working with the federal, provincial and territorial governments, its membership, patient groups, and stakeholders to find ways for pharmacists to become full partners in the dispensing of medical marijuana in order to improve patient safety and access.
WHAT WE HAVE HEARD FROM CANADIANS – ABACUS DATA
A national survey conducted by Abacus Data for CPhA indicated that:
- A strong majority of respondents (73%) agree that medical marijuana should be treated like other medicines and only available through a pharmacy.
- A strong majority of respondents (77%) agree that patient safety and oversight would be improved if medical marijuana was available only through a pharmacy.
- When asked to rank medical marijuana distribution methods, a majority of respondents (52%) chose pharmacies as their preferred method of distribution with no other option being ranked first by more than 18% of Canadians.
- When asked how medical marijuana should be controlled, a majority of respondents (56%) indicated that it should be accessible by prescription only.
RESEARCH FINDINGS – KPMG REPORT
The KPMG report outlines a number of key benefits that could be expected from pharmacists dispensing medical marijuana. The report identified that:
- Pharmacy is the leading option to enhance the distribution and management of medical marijuana.
- Pharmacy can simultaneously enhance patient safety and access by addressing a number of different needs including healthcare professional involvement, medication management and patient education.
- This change is largely motivated by the need to assure that therapeutic products that present drug interaction and other risks to patients are managed by a regulated health professional. Pharmacy has a vast network of storefronts to enhance patient access. It brings infrastructure and controls to help secure the supply chain to limit diversion and ensure product integrity. The pharmacist’s role in interdisciplinary care can help monitor drug-related therapy, thus improving patient safety.
- Pharmacy is strongly positioned to manage the distribution of medical marijuana in the proposed framework. Its expansive network, as well as involvement in healthcare management, make pharmacy the most suitable option for improving access, promoting patient safety, and providing enhanced patient education.