Two in Three Canadians Would Take a Drug Containing Cannabis if Prescribed by a Doctor and Covered by Insurance

Published: February 27, 2019

Two in Three Canadians Would Take a Drug Containing Cannabis if Prescribed by a Doctor and Covered by Insurance

According to a recent Ipsos poll commissioned by Tetra Bio-Pharma, it seems that Canadians believe that Doctor Knows Best when it comes to recommending cannabis for a medical ailment, even though they are less convinced that they are well enough informed to treat them with it. That concern should change as cannabinoid derived prescription drugs become approved by Health Canada, available in pharmacies and covered by private and/or public drug plans. That time is soon approaching as numerous clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid-derived drugs are currently underway.

The study revealed that two in three (65%) Canadians would be willing (36% very/29% somewhat) to take a pharmaceutical drug containing cannabis that their doctor prescribed, if it was approved by Health Canada and covered by either public or private insurance. Those more likely to be willing to take these drugs include men (69%), those aged 18-34 (72%), and residents of Ontario (71%). By contrast, if these drugs were not covered by public or private insurance and patients had to pay out of pocket, four in ten (38%) would still be willing to do so (14% strongly/25% somewhat), particularly among men (44%), those aged 18-34 (51%), and residents of BC (50%).

According to Dr. Guy Chamberland, Chief Executive Officer and CSO of Tetra Bio-Pharma, a global leader in the discovery and development of cannabinoid-derived products, the Ipsos results reinforce current understanding of consumer and physician behaviors. “Patients are open to cannabis as a medical treatment but want their healthcare professional to be in charge. On the flip side, doctors, medical bodies and payors need the safety and efficacy data that they expect from any drug they prescribe. Treatment with cannabis is complex, which is why the pharmaceutical pathway assures precise dosing and consistent formulation.”

Tetra Bio-Pharma undertook the research to gain a better understanding of the attitudes, behaviours and opinions of Canadians on cannabis drugs, including their confidence in taking them, the incidence of medical conditions they have where cannabis treatment could be used, as well as any barriers to cannabis drugs.

While much attention has been paid to the recent legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada, the Ipsos study shows that 69% of respondents do not consider themselves to be cannabis users. Of those that do, half say they use it for recreational purposes. Approximately a quarter of these users report taking it exclusively for medical purposes. If that number seems low, it could be because medical doctors and medical associations are still waiting for scientific data before recommending cannabis to their patients.

Canadians seem confident that cannabis has a therapeutic benefit and would be willing to take it for pain and associated symptoms. An overwhelming majority (82%) of Canadians agree (34% strongly agree/48% somewhat) that cannabis can reduce pain and other symptoms. Furthermore, over two-thirds (68%) of Canadians are willing (30% very/38% somewhat) to take cannabis to help manage chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, or depression. This is potentially interesting for those who suffer from conditions that could be treated with cannabis-based medicines. Not surprisingly, this proportion reaches 84% (60% strongly/24%) among those who suffer from three or more conditions that have been linked to treatment with a cannabis-based medicine.

When it comes to expanding access for patients to cannabis medicines through the regulatory pathway, one in six Canadians (17%) say they are closely following the progress being made with Health Canada approving clinical trials for cannabis-based medicines, while just over four in ten (41%) say they have heard of this development, but are not following it at all. Another 18% said they thought cannabis medicines already existed and the remaining one-quarter (24%) said they were not at all aware.

While cannabis is being authorized for medical purposes under the Cannabis Act, the products currently available are not Health Canada approved prescription drugs. Several clinical trials are underway in Canada with a view to investigating the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid-derived pharmaceuticals. Understandably, those suffering from one or more conditions that could be treated with medical cannabis are more likely to be following this news closely. Furthermore, over four in ten (43%) report being willing (23% very/21% somewhat) to participate in a clinical trial testing cannabis-based medicines if these trials are approved by Health Canada and they were qualified for the trial.

Canadians seem to recognize that turning to cannabis to manage a health condition is not something they should do on their own. Almost nine in ten (88%) believe that there is some degree of risk (25% major/29% moderate/34% minor) in taking cannabis for health conditions without consulting a physician. This should be a comforting thought considering the side effects that cannabis can have for individuals suffering from mental illness, cardiac conditions and diabetes, among other conditions.

Canadians’ level of trust in their doctor remains high when it comes to their judgement over whether to prescribe cannabis. Just under three-quarters (72%) agree (29% strongly /43% somewhat) that they would trust a drug containing cannabis if their doctor prescribed it. Interestingly though, not everyone is fully confident that their doctor is up-to-date on cannabis treatments. Only a slim majority of Canadians agree that their doctor knows how to treat them with cannabis (56%; 14% strongly/42% somewhat) and that their doctor is sufficiently well-informed on how to do so (53%; 13% strongly/41% somewhat). This suggests that Canadians believe there is room for an improvement in knowledge. It is widely believed that the integration of cannabinoid-derived drugs within the Canadian medical system will become a catalyst for the education and training of doctors on how to prescribe cannabis, something that is complex given the need for precise dosing and consistent product quality.

If ordinary Canadians are open to taking cannabis-based medicines, it seems that doctors are also receptive to prescribing them to patients. While only one in ten (11%) Canadians has asked their doctor to prescribe cannabis for a health condition, 45% of those who did so report that their doctor prescribed cannabis willingly. Another 20% said their doctor prescribed cannabis, but was hesitant, while 11% reported that their doctor prescribed another drug instead.

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