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Could Canadian Pharmacies Be The New Gatekeepers For Medical Marijuana?

Research has shown that pharmacists are among the most trusted professionals in North America, so it makes sense that they’re inundated with questions about medical marijuana from curious patients on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, answering those questions isn’t always easy – particularly when you’ve received no formal training on the subject.

Enter Maricann.

The Ontario-based licensed medical marijuana producer is partnering with one of the country’s largest retail pharmacy services providers to create a program that will enable pharmacists to counsel and educate patients about medical marijuana. 

“Pharmacists are the go-to professionals when it comes to trust relationships and healthcare management ... Every day there are patients in pharmacies asking for information about medical marijuana, and most pharmacists are not effectively trained [to answer them],” Terry Fretz, the president of Maricann, told Civilized.

“Patients’ needs aren’t being met ... because of this gap in information for both patients and healthcare professionals."

“Pharmacists have the intellectual capacity, the professional capacity, and the presence in all towns and cities large and small coast to coast, to be able to effectively satisfy what patients are looking for.”

In collaboration with pharmacy officials, Maricann will develop product and patient education materials, dosing protocols and information on cannabis strains and their interactions with other medications.

The joint initiative, according to a Maricann press release, aims to position pharmacies as the “preferred access point for medicinal cannabis based on pharmacists’ critical role in working with physicians and patients in understanding the multi-synchronistic opportunities in multi-medication patients.”

The educational program is set to launch later this fall, said Fretz – well ahead of the federal government’s deadline for recreational cannabis legalization on July 1, 2018. 

It’s not yet clear what relationship the two so-called “streams” – medical and recreational – will have once recreational legalization rolls out. While a recommendation proposed by the Liberal government’s task force on cannabis legalization called for the two streams to be separate, the Canadian Medical Association recommends just one stream.

For his part, Fretz “fully anticipates a bifurcated market” – in other words, Canada’s medical marijuana market will continue to thrive and expand amid recreational legalization.

“It’s quite obvious that cannabis has a real and meaningful role to play in managing patients’ health and welfare. That will continue,” said Fretz.

“We continue to look at product formulation, new product delivery systems and opportunities to enhance the performance of products in the medical context.

“We also [wish to] continue to provide product formats that are more traditional with the healthcare practitioners, be that capsules or eventually patch technology and other delivery systems that the prescribing physician, the dispensing pharmacist and the patient are comfortable with.”  

Mail order is currently the only legal distribution method for medical marijuana in Canada, which Fretz said comes with its own set of problems for patients – chief of which is the inability to speak with a “credible counsellor on the street” about their new medication.

At least one massive Canadian pharmacy chain, Shoppers Drug Mart, has formally applied to distribute medical marijuana, while medical marijuana producer CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. recently signed an agreement to have their products distributed exclusively by PharmaChoice if such a model is legalized.

While it hasn't been revealed which pharmacy chain Maricann will be working with for this program, the LP said they are also engaged in “active dialogue” with other parties and a major announcement is “imminent.”


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