Put yourself in the shoes of a patient receiving continuous healthcare for a chronic problem, constantly taking trips to and from the doctor and being prescribed endless amounts of different analgesics, opiates, barbiturates and whatever other pharmaceutical medicines that are prescribed in your conventional treatment, only to be disheartened once again because time after time these drugs fail to treat your condition effectively.
They may mask your symptoms without treating the root cause of the problem or they may cause such unwelcome side effects that treatment becomes as painful as the condition itself. Imagine that moment then when you have found a medication that you know helps with alleviating your condition, and you get a bit of hope that there is effective medicine for yourself, you are able to be prescribed this medicine. But unlike all the other failed medicines which you had access to previously with costs covered by your healthcare insurance, this one you now must pay for out of your own pocket. That was the exact situation faced by Gordon Wayne Skinner, an elevator mechanic from Nova Scotia, who was injured whilst at work and a result now suffers from chronic pain, a liver disease and then financial difficulty resulting from his injury. He was prescribed different pharmaceuticals medicines for the pain and found that nothing worked until he was eventually recommended cannabis by his physician.
The question is why would all the failed medicines be covered under his unions insurance policy but the one that reportedly worked not be covered? Why should this man have to choose between feeding and looking after his family or get the healthcare that most would consider human right for him?
His situation is unfortunately not a unique one with statistics showing that 60% of Canadians who are prescribed medical cannabis are unable to afford the prescription amount recommended by their doctors. Mr Skinner commented, “This decision is devastating. My own union is doing everything they can to deny coverage to the only medication that works for me, while myself and my family are left to suffer”. He continued “I am very thankful for the support of CFAMM (Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana) and Aurora Cannabis thus far and feel assured that the medical cannabis community is fully behind me as we consider potential remedies.”
In Mr Skinners case, he was ultimately denied medical marijuana because his work’s insurance plan doesn’t cover any drug not approved by Health Canada. To be approved by Health Canada, any drug must appear on their approval list and to appear here Health Canada must do the appropriate testing and then assign a Drug Identification Number (DIN). The conclusion that insurance plan doesn’t cover any drug not on the list is a reasonable one, as there must be some form of means testing by insurers, otherwise they would have to pay out in every case, rightly or wrongly. Many people are already asking if we will see Medical Marijuana insurance policies. This then places the responsibility on Health Canada as the health regulator to do the necessary assessment of medical cannabis and include it in the approval list so that it does meet the criteria laid out by the insurers. It goes against logical thought that something can be legally prescribed for medical use, and that reports show that it works, but that it is not on an approval list of appropriate treatments when financing is involved. The power then lies with Health Canada. With increased talk of marijuana in mainstream media, it’s likely that pressure upon them to do what is required will only mount up further.