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AUDITOR GENERAL'S MEDICAL MARIJUANA REPORT FLAWED: VETS

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AUDITOR GENERAL'S MEDICAL MARIJUANA REPORT FLAWED: VETS

Post by Guest on Fri 13 May 2016, 05:41

The recent explosion in the number of veterans being reimbursed for medical marijuana, flagged by the Auditor-General in a critical report, is being fuelled by groups in the Atlantic provinces connecting former soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with licensed growers hungry for patients.

The practice has raised flags at Health Canada, where officials have looked into efforts by some veterans groups to leverage kickbacks from medical producers in exchange for providing them with patients.

Veterans are part of the only publicly funded plan in the country for medical marijuana. Groups that represent them offer a small but lucrative patient base for Canada’s two dozen licensed producers, which are fighting for their share of a competitive market while facing pressure from an illegal dispensary sector rapidly spreading east from Vancouver.

Auditor-General Michael Ferguson, in a report last week, found the number of veterans with pot prescriptions has increased 11 times to more than 1,300 registered patients since Ottawa overhauled its previous home-growing regime just over two years ago.

These former soldiers are covered for up to 10 grams a day, three times more cannabis than the average Canadian patient is authorized to use, and Veterans Affairs Canada said it reimburses them for anywhere from $6 to $14 a gram. The average price paid by patients of the system is $8.14 a gram, according to official data from last December.

Veterans Affairs paid out $12.1-million for these prescriptions from April to December of last year and, by the end of this fiscal year, they could make up a third of all drug payouts for veterans. The department, which announced an ongoing review of the ballooning costs earlier this year, has accepted the Auditor-General’s recommendations to create stricter controls on the program.

Buried in the Auditor-General’s report was the fact that 53 per cent of the more than 1,300 veterans that got prescriptions last year did so from just four doctors. The report did not specify where those doctors practise. Veterans in Atlantic Canada represent about 15 per cent of all former soldiers, but nearly two-thirds of veterans using medical marijuana live in the Eastern provinces.

This trend has been fuelled in large part by groups such as New Brunswick-based Marijuana For Trauma (MFT), co-founded by veteran Fabian Henry. Mr. Henry said he has organized hundreds of former soldiers suffering from PTSD to get reimbursed for their medical pot, and has no problem asking licensed producers to share a cut of sales or a set fee for referring such patients.

His non-profit group will continue raising funds this way, he said, in order to offer its more than 500 members other holistic therapies not covered by the government, such as hyperbaric oxygen treatments, cannabis education, cooking classes, peer support and spousal programs.

“MFT has set up a program for healing the body, mind and soul, which has a huge success rate in recovery of the entire well-being,” Mr. Henry said via e-mail. “Until there is a system to provide a … holistic healing option for treatment, we will continue as we are.”

There are few guidelines that cover the relationship between patients, doctors, clinics specializing in pot prescriptions and growers, which, unlike traditional drug companies, sell their products directly to consumers.

Health Canada does not approve marijuana as a drug or medicine, but is compelled to regulate it by the courts, which have consistently ruled that Canadians must have reasonable access to medical marijuana.

After Mr. Henry told The Globe and Mail last June that his group routinely asks licensed producers to share a cut of sales or a set fee for referring patients, Health Canada said it was “actively looking into the issue” of whether such kickbacks present a conflict of interest for the growers.

The agency issued a bulletin to the producers warning them to “take care to avoid any situation that could compromise the health and safety of patients; for example, giving or offering inappropriate direct or indirect payments or inducements to any individual or organization.”

Despite Mr. Henry’s public comments, department spokesman Sean Upton said in a statement e-mailed last week that Health Canada “did not have any reason to find that any licensed producers were not in compliance with the regulations.”

“If Health Canada became aware of a licensed producer engaged in the practice of paying for referrals, the department would investigate and take the appropriate compliance and enforcement action, if warranted,” Mr. Upton wrote.

“We would be concerned particularly by situations that could compromise the health and safety of patients.”

Mr. Henry and his group are embroiled in a legal battle with Moncton-based licensed producer Organigram, with whom he alleges he entered into a partnership in 2014 to expand Marijuana For Trauma’s operations across the country through a new separate corporation. In a lawsuit filed last summer, Mr. Henry alleges that Organigram stole his group’s confidential business plan and illegally ended their partnership to continue expanding this new company.

Organigram has filed a counterclaim denying this and alleging a company owned by Mr. Henry owes it $150,000 on an outstanding mortgage involving a Fredericton property that was once going to house a clinic for veterans.

None of these allegations has been proven in court.

Denis Arsenault, CEO of Organigram, said last week that his company has never done business with Marijuana For Trauma. His company has agreed to grow particular strains for a similar veterans group, something he sees no problem with.

“If those organizations are stopping veterans from stopping killing themselves, kudos to them,” Mr. Aresenault said.

Hugo Alves, a Toronto-based lawyer who represents licensed growers and other legal cannabis businesses, said that, one way or another, all of Canada’s 26 licensed commercial pot growers pay for their share of the country’s 50,000 registered patients.

Every licensed producer has a “metric on cost-per-patient acquisition,” whether they are a small grower that outsources outreach to their patients through groups like Mr. Henry’s, or they have the money to pay for pharmaceutical reps to educate doctors or non-profit patient-advocacy groups on the benefits of their products, he said.

“They just have a different way of approaching it, so they [may not] enter into a services arrangement that says, ‘If you send me a patient, then what I will give you is a service fee for providing the patient-outreach function for me,’” Mr. Alves said. “What they’ll say is, ‘Hey, I’ll give you a research partnership or I’ll do it some other way.’”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/surge-in-veterans-pot-prescriptions-raises-flags-at-health-canada/article30006716/

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Veterans groups decry media, auditor general for perpetuating medical marijuana stigma

Post by Guest on Tue 10 May 2016, 05:39

While the country generally supports the Trudeau government’s plan to legalize marijuana, Canada’s veterans say they are still being stigmatized for using medical marijuana to deal with both physical pain and PTSD.

Veterans advocates from the Veterans Accountability Commission (VAC), a non-profit group, are accusing Canada’s Auditor General Michael Ferguson and the media of perpetuating the stigma attached to medical marijuana.

Clayton Goodwin and David MacKenzie from the VAC as well as Medical Cannabis Patients Alliance Director Laurie MacEachern, held a press conference on Parliament Hill Monday morning to draw attention to an article in the Ottawa Citizen and statements made by Ferguson, which the group feels spread stigma against veterans who rely on medical cannabis.

Goodwin, a former reservist who was injured in the Far North in 2004, uses cannabiniod replacement therapy to control his health issues and Operational Stress Injury from service.

He first drew attention to a Citizen editorial called, “Vet’s Pot Use Problems Suggest Legalization Challenges Ahead”.

“The very title alone is the start of trying to manipulate the public on issues concerning veteran’s health and quality of life,” said Goodwin.

“First, there is no problematic cannabis use. We simply have Veterans finding plant based medicine to be better for themselves which improves the family dynamic,” he said, adding that the article is biased because “no cost-difference analysis has even been looked into, between pharmaceuticals and medicinal marijuana.”

Last week in his spring report, Ferguson said he found that the cost of providing medical marijuana to veterans under a Veterans Affairs program cost ten times more than what was spent last year – more than $4.3 million this fiscal year.

Ferguson also found that the number of ex-soldiers eligible for taxpayer-funded, prescribed pot more than quadrupled to 601 patients, according to figures released by the department.

Goodwin said one of the main issues veterans face is stigma – and the Citizen’s article along with the statement from Ferguson – “is a form of stigmatization on those who chose plant based medicine.”

“We as patients with health conditions have enough to worry about without government actors or journalists creating more stigma as we strive to balance our own health day-to-day and care for our families,” Goodwin said.

“We do not concern ourselves with the price of the pharma and therefore we should not concern ourselves with the price of medical marijuana. We are trying to take control of our lives on a day to day basis and try to better ourselves.”

https://ipolitics.ca/2016/05/09/veterans-groups-decry-media-auditor-general-for-perpetuating-medical-marijuana-stigma/

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Auditor general's medical marijuana report flawed: Vets

Post by Guest on Mon 09 May 2016, 14:49

OTTAWA -- A veterans group says auditor general Michael Ferguson's latest report clouds the most important issue when it comes to the increasing use of medical marijuana to treat injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Clayton Goodwin, of the Veterans Accountability Commission, one of a growing number of grassroots organizations, says last week's audit focused too narrowly on the rising cost of the program and not on the health benefits of switching from pharmaceuticals to medicinal pot.

He claims there are cost-savings associated with dropping prescription drugs, and would have preferred to see the report analyze that aspect.

"In the auditor general's report; he basically leaves out facts," Goodwin said at a media event on Parliament Hill on Monday. "He comes at it from the cost of medical marijuana. He has not said anything about the cost of pharmaceuticals."

Veterans who are taking part in the program should have been interviewed -- or at least consulted -- about changes in their quality of life after switching to medical marijuana as part of their therapy, said Goodwin.

"My anecdotal evidence from speaking with people in the community is an 80 per cent reduction in the use of pharmaceuticals," Goodwin added.

It would have been tough for Ferguson to measure some of the evidence Goodwin wants to see, because the audit said the veterans department does a poor job of tracking prescription drug usage.

The audit found the department did not have "an adequate process for evidence-based decisions related to its drug benefit list."

The committee that oversees the decisions could not provide proof that it had considered "veteran's needs, current health practices and policies, clinical research and cost-effectiveness" in coming up with the drug benefits list.

Ferguson's report urged the Trudeau government to get a grip on the marijuana program for injured ex-soldiers, which is expected to cost taxpayers $25 million this year.

He painted a picture of program out of control and said Veterans Affairs recognized years ago the need to contain the program by imposing a limit on how much the government is willing to pay per gram -- something federal officials have shied away from doing.

Three years ago there were 112 veterans taking prescribed pot at a cost of $408,000, but by the end of December 2015 some 1,320 ex-soldiers were enrolled at a cost of $12.1 million.

The Liberal government said it accepts Ferguson's report and Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr has ordered a review of the policy. He said he intends to consult veterans and officials, something Goodwin welcomed.

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/05/09/auditor-generals-prescribed-pot-report-flawed-vets&ct=ga&cd=CAIyG2MyZDFmZjJjN2Q3ZDJlMDQ6Y2E6ZW46Q0E6Ug&usg=AFQjCNGIIJOr7JSTCUT09ZYScjzYHLV-kQ

Veterans say auditor general's prescribed pot report flawed, too narrow in scope

OTTAWA - A veterans group says auditor general Michael Ferguson's latest report clouds the most important issue when it comes to the increasing use of medical marijuana to treat injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Clayton Goodwin, of the Veterans Accountability Commission, one of a growing number of grassroots organizations, says last week's audit focused too narrowly on the rising cost of the program and not on the health benefits of switching from pharmaceuticals to medicinal pot.

He claims there are cost-savings associated with dropping prescription drugs, and would have preferred to see the report analyze that aspect.

Ferguson's report urged the Trudeau government to get a grip on the program for injured ex-soldiers, which is expected to cost taxpayers $25 million this year.

He painted a picture of program out of control and said Veterans Affairs recognized years ago the need to contain the program by imposing a limit on how much the government is willing to pay per gram — something federal officials have shied away from
doing.

Three years ago there were 112 veterans taking prescribed pot at a cost of $408,000, but by the end of December 2015 some 1,320 ex-soldiers were enrolled at a cost of $12.1 million.

http://www.timescolonist.com/veterans-say-auditor-general-s-prescribed-pot-report-flawed-too-narrow-in-scope-1.2249822




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Re: AUDITOR GENERAL'S MEDICAL MARIJUANA REPORT FLAWED: VETS

Post by Guest on Sun 08 May 2016, 20:09

Dove one thing the Minister acknowledged was what you have been saying with regards to it might be costly , but what is DVA saving with all those increased side effects from Pharmaceutical drugs , more pharmaceutical drugs = more money so I think he is going to take those thoughts into account.
Medical cannabis may prove to actually save DVA money even though the cost seems high now with the increase amount of new users ,

He even acknowledges that it's all about the well being of Veterans , he says if it works for the Veterans , it works for him.

The only thing that might be a problem moving forward is price hikes , you know the greed from the sellers , I hope they put something in place that legislates pricing.

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Re: AUDITOR GENERAL'S MEDICAL MARIJUANA REPORT FLAWED: VETS

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