Injured Workers Can Apply to Province for Medical Cannabis Coverage – LPC

Medical cannabis coverage in New Brunswick helps injured workers.
Dr. Paul Atkinson is the chief medical officer at WorkSafeNB, the first workers’ compensation agency in Canada to formally provide medical cannabis coverage.

Despite the known benefits of cannabis for injury, medical cannabis coverage under injured workers’ claims has been slow coming. Last spring, WorkSafeNB became the first workers’ compensation organization in Canada to develop a policy for medical cannabis coverage. It spells out specific situations when an injured worker can apply for it. One of the issues is that there isn’t a standardized set of indications or dosages that physicians can follow for their patients.

“We felt that there was a lack of guidance, especially when varied practice was noticed in that there were varied amounts, dosages, for different indications,” Dr. Atkinson said.

WorkSafeNB essentially outlined these best practices to allow for medical cannabis coverage. Patient symptoms include end-of-life care; treating nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite related to diseases such as cancer or AIDS, relieving spasm pain related to a nervous system injury, or for certain chronic pain conditions.

Further, treatments allowed under medical cannabis coverage cannot include THC. “We have a very clear policy of not approving THC-containing cannabis,” Dr. Atkinson said.

Medical Cannabis Coverage Helps Workers Get Treatments – LPC

Annette Balkam is one of those workers who has benefited from medical cannabis coverage. She experienced chronic pain since falling on the job while working as a security guard. She began taking addictive opioids to manage the pain, though they didn’t seem to help. Cannabis did. In 2014, she lobbied WorkSafeNB for medical cannabis coverage to help her get off the opioids. It took months, but they eventually agreed.

“We’re not drug addicts,” she said. On the contrary, patients want to avoid becoming addicted to other pain relievers such as opioids. “We’re not looking to get high. We’re looking to relieve our pain.”

WorkSafeNB also allows special cases for workers currently on opioids who want to get off, even if they do not meet the medical criteria.

Medical cannabis coverage seems to be more important than ever with concerns that medical cannabis is being taxed at the same rate as recreational cannabis.

Canada may once again be at the forefront of this movement as places such as Europe consider medical cannabis programs. Ohio is one of many states in the US that have recently launched medical cannabis sales as well.

Since the WorkSafeNB program, Ontario and Prince Edward Island have also developed workers’ compensation policies for medical cannabis coverage.

This editorial content from the LPC News Editor is meant to provide analysis, insight, and perspective on current news articles. To read the source article this commentary is based upon, please click on the link below.


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