Canadian Medical Association Journal

Qatar is a research bonanza for foreigners

Qatar’s heavy investment in medical research is attracting Canadians.

For Kim Critchley, dean of the University of Calgary’s Qatar campus, the biggest advantage to doing research in the tiny Arabian Gulf country is clear: the availability of research funding.

“You have this large funding pool, and less competition to access funds,” she says. “Your chance of being funded is much higher than it is in Canada.” Read more in CMAJ.

Exercise prescriptions endorsed

IMG_6714Doctors in two Canadian provinces are using exercise prescription pads to encourage patients to lead healthier, more active lifestyles. Doctors of BC (British Columbia) and the New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS) offer free pads to their members so they can give patients a physical reminder of the exercise advice they’ve been given by their physicians.

Dr. Lynn Hansen, president of NBMS, said the pads are intended to help patients stick to their exercise regimes. “If they have something in writing, it provides a more permanent reminder of the conversation they had with their doctor,” she said. “We know not everything that is said in the doctor’s office is retained.” Read more in CMAJ.

BMA votes to end investment in fossil fuels

The British Medication Association set an international precedent with a vote to end its investment in fossil fuel companies. The motion also urged the BMA to switch its electricity supply to renewable sources and to help create an alliance of health care bodies to promote the health benefits of reducing greenhouse gasses. Read more in CMAJ.

Colleges set guidelines for marijuana

Physicians need to ensure conventional therapies are exhausted before prescribing medical marijuana, say many provincial colleges.

The seven provincial colleges of physicians that have issued guidelines are urging their members to take a cautious approach to prescribing medical marijuana.

The uncertainty over the risks and benefits of the drug and the lack of reliable data on its clinical effects are underlying caveats in guidelines from the colleges. The colleges advise physicians to take great care when deciding whether to prescribe cannabis to patients and to first ensure that conventional therapies have been exhausted. Read more in CMAJ.

Quebec doctors aim to fill marijuana knowledge gaps

Doctors in Quebec who prescribe medical marijuana will automatically take part in a province-wide research project to assess the risks and benefits of the drug.

Health Canada recently shifted responsibility for deciding who should have access to the drug onto the shoulders of individual doctors, raising concerns among physician groups, including the Canadian Medical Association, about the lack of robust data on the safety and effectiveness of marijuana used for medical purposes. Read more in CMAJ.

Be wary of “prescribing” medical marijuana, CMA warns

Canadian physicians should be wary of “prescribing” medical marijuana under new regulations that come into effect on Apr. 1, 2014, says the president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“For the CMA, nothing has really changed,” says Dr. Hugo Francescutti. “Our stand has always been that there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the use of marijuana for clinical purposes.”

In addition, he says, the regulatory colleges have indicated that they have concerns about patient safety and will be keeping a close eye on doctors who do “prescribe” the drug. “They are telling us to tread very gently. So if you are about to authorize access to marijuana you better really have the evidence that shows that it has some beneficial impact for your patient, because if something untoward happens you will be held to quite a high standard.” Read more in CMAJ.

New Brunswick drug plan hopes to avoid pitfalls of other provinces

New Brunswick waited a long time for a prescription drug plan but it may now have the best one in Canada, according to Steve Morgan, who studies pharmaceutical policy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“New Brunswick learned not to make the mistake of the western provinces, which only cover prescription drugs costs once they exceed about 3% of income,” says Morgan. “It goes a lot further than the catastrophic drug plans in other provinces.” Read more in CMAJ.

US conflict-of-interest case draws attention across continent

A conflict-of-interest case in Oregon is gaining attention across the United States and Canada for the precedent it may set regarding how much physicians should disclose to patients about their financial ties to medical companies.

Two physicians in Salem, Dr. Matthew Fedor and Dr. Kyong Turk, were charged under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The doctors implanted defibrillators and pacemakers without disclosing to patients that they had been paid by the devices’ manufacturer, Biotronik, to train sales representatives from the company. Read more in CMAJ.

Risk of tick-borne infections on the rise

Canadians should be prepared for a big increase in the rates of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease in the coming years, as milder winters make the country more hospitable for the bugs, according to a New Brunswick biologist.

Vett Lloyd, who studies ticks at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, has seen a 6–8-fold increase in the number of ticks in the province so far this year. And the number of those infected with Lyme disease is inching up; it now stands at around 15%. “Even if the proportion of infected ticks stays the same, there are so many more of them around that you have a higher chance of encountering them,” she says. Read more in CMAJ.

End funding for liberation therapy, say New Brunswick MDs

The New Brunswick Medical Society has asked the provincial government to stop giving money to patients with multiple sclerosis who want to obtain liberation therapy outside Canada.

Dr. Robert Desjardins, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS), says the therapy, which involves using angioplasty to open constricted veins in the neck and chest, has not been proven to be clinically effective. “NBMS always bases its recommendations for the use of public money on evidence,” he says. Read more in CMAJ.