November 22, 2016 – Waterloo, Ontario – On November 16, 2016, Vice News published an article, “Veteran Medical Marijuana Benefits Are Costing Canada a Fortune”, on the skyrocketing use and cost of medical cannabis among Canadian veterans. The article uncovered industry practices that artificially inflate pricing for veterans’ medical cannabis as well as unethical referral arrangements between veteran clinics and licensed producers.
Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) is deeply concerned about the impact of differential pricing for veterans and believes these practices hurts all medical cannabis patients, many of whom continue to struggle with affordability with few cost-coverage options available. We strongly denounce differential pricing based on cost-coverage status and urge both cannabis industry associations, the Canadian Medical Cannabis Council and Cannabis Canada, to enact policies prohibiting these practices.
When done so responsibly, cost-covering medical cannabis can be beneficial for both insurers and plan members. A 2013 survey published in Addiction Research and Therapy found that almost 70% of medical cannabis patients substitute medical cannabis for other prescription drugs, most often opioids. Replacing opioids with cannabis allows patients to limit the risk of addiction and lethal overdose while finding relief of their symptoms. This type of substitution effect is also seen on the Veterans Affairs plan, which has shown a reduction in opioid and benzodiazepine claims as the number of veterans claiming cannabis has increased.
CFAMM is committed to work with patients and insurers to demonstrate the benefits of covering cannabis. Many patients in our insurance education program have established cost-savings while on cannabis compared to their previous insured medications and therapies.
The practices that have occurred in the industry must not dictate the future of medical cannabis coverage. Industry associations should play a role by prohibiting the practice of differential pricing and invest more resources towards demonstrating the positive impact for insurers who cover medical cannabis.