When it comes to cannabis, trust in doctors’ judgement runs high

OTTAWA/CNW - 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 per cent) Canadians would be willing (36 per cent very/29 per cent 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 per cent), those aged 18-34 (72 per cent), and residents of Ontario (71 per cent). 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 per cent) would still be willing to do so (14 per cent strongly/25 per cent somewhat), particularly among men (44 per cent), those aged 18-34 (51 per cent), and residents of BC (50 per cent).

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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 per cent 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.


New Avenues for Pharmaceutical Research

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 per cent) of Canadians agree (34 per cent strongly agree/48 per cent somewhat) that cannabis can reduce pain and other symptoms. Furthermore, over two-thirds (68 per cent) of Canadians are willing (30 per cent very/38 per cent 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 per cent (60 per cent strongly/24 per cent) 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 per cent) 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 per cent) say they have heard of this development, but are not following it at all. Another 18 per cent said they thought cannabis medicines already existed and the remaining one-quarter (24 per cent) 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 per cent) report being willing (23 per cent very/21 per cent 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.


Doctor Knows Best

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 per cent) believe that there is some degree of risk (25 per cent major/29 per cent moderate/34 per cent 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 per cent) agree (29 per cent strongly /43 per cent 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 per cent; 14 per cent strongly/42 per cent somewhat) and that their doctor is sufficiently well-informed on how to do so (53 per cent; 13 per cent strongly/41 per cent 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 per cent) Canadians has asked their doctor to prescribe cannabis for a health condition, 45 per cent of those who did so report that their doctor prescribed cannabis willingly. Another 20 per cent said their doctor prescribed cannabis, but was hesitant, while 11 per cent reported that their doctor prescribed another drug instead.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between December 7 and December 10, 2018, on behalf of Tetra Bio-Pharma. For this survey, a sample of 2,002 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online via the Ipsos I-Say panel. The poll is accurate to within ±2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.

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