One of Canada's biggest health insurers is teaming up with Shoppers Drug Mart to improve patient access to medical marijuana.

Most companies have yet to implement medical marijuana coverage for their employees, so Manulife Financial Inc. is helping to lead the way toward better coverage for patients. The new policy will allow coverage of medical marijuana prescribed for 3 conditions: MS, treatment of side effects from chemotherapy, and chronic neuropathic pain. It will also make pharmacists from Shoppers Drug Mart available to help patients pick the right strain for their condition and arrange home delivery of their medicine.

Currently, the only legal way for medical marijuana patients to buy their medicine is through a mail-order system overseen by Health Canada. Without face-to-face interaction, it can be difficult for patients to figure out which products they want to use. So having a pharmacist available for consultation should help take the guessing game out of the equation.

"Right now, what happens is that if a patient receives a medical document to use marijuana, they’re on their own from there," said Donna Carbell - Senior Vice-President of group benefits at Manulife told The Globe and Mail. "This program will allow the patient to have a fully coordinated care approach. I think this will provide a great deal of comfort to patients and employers."

If a company chooses to have medical marijuana added to their healthcare plan, patients who receive a prescription from their physician for one of the approved conditions will be able to consult with a Shoppers pharmacist to find a strain best suited for them.

And while Carbell says the "the uptake has been very, very small" for the new policy it seems likely that acceptance of these sorts of policies will only improve with time.

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