Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | February 16, 2018
  • New prescribing guidelines found limited evidence to support use of medical marijuana, and warned that the risks may outweigh the benefits for the vast majority of patients. Research does support its use to treat nerve pain, cancer pain, nausea from chemotherapy, and muscle tightness associated with multiple sclerosis or spinal injury; however, even in those specific cases, the benefits were found to be minor while side-effects were common and consistent.
  • Nearly one million Canadians skimped on food and heating to afford their prescriptions in 2016, according to a CMAJ Open study. Researchers found that 730000 people spent less on food and another 238000 spent less on heating their homes to pay for medicine; the study also found more than 1.6 million Canadian didn’t fill their prescriptions or skipped doses because they couldn’t pay for it.
  • Health Canada unveiled proposed warning labels for foods high in saturated fat, sugar or sodium. However, the regulator appears to have compromised with industry on the design of the labels; none of the designs include stop signs or triangles that look like hazard symbols, something Health Canada initially proposed with support from health experts.
  • Quebec specialists earn $36000 more per year than those in Ontario, but a decade-old deal will see the province pay out an additional $500 million to the doctors in March and increase their earnings by 11.2% by 2023. The deal was originally struck to close the salary gap between Quebec and other provinces, but didn’t anticipate that Ontario and Alberta would claw back specialist remuneration.
  • Ontario announced funding for new Indigenous-led health care programs, including direct funding to First Nations for home care, 16 new or expanded primary care teams, and 34 health and wellness programs that include traditional healing. Health Minister Dr. Erik Hoskins said the province’s ultimate goal is to “hand back” health care decision making to First Nations within a matter of years.
  • Nova Scotia is considering bringing back a program that allowed foreign-trained doctors to practice under supervision to provide them a route to working in the province. Nova Scotia cancelled the program in 2015, but is now facing a physician shortage with 66 family doctor vacancies.
  • New Brunswick announced it will create 25 new family doctor positions in the province over the next year, despite having between 25 and 30 vacancies for family doctors and about as many for specialists. Premier Brian Gallant said the province will also “do everything we can to make sure we recruit more doctors in general.”
  • Quebec expanded the powers of nurse practitioners to allow them to diagnose and treat asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure, and prescribe some medications.
  • Manitoba is developing a plan to address increasing methamphetamine use in Winnipeg. In the first month of this year, city police seized more than 5.8 kilograms of the drug, nearly half the total confiscated in all of 2017.
  • Canada’s corrections system needs to clarify medical marijuana policies to determine what counts as legitimate or illegitimate use, a British Columbia judge urged. The issue is particularly complicated for parolees who are forbidden from consuming intoxicants, since it’s unclear whether marijuana still counts as an intoxicant when it’s used for medical purposes.

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