Shoppers Takes Page From Big Pharma, Sponsors Talks For Doctors on Medical Cannabis, Which it Plans to Sell

Article by Tom Blackwell, Standard-Freeholder

Shoppers takes page from Big Pharma, sponsors talks for doctors on medical cannabis, which it plans to sell "It's unseemly," says UBC pharmacology expert about seminars featuring doctors with close ties to cannabis-producing firms and private marijuana clinics Tom Blackwell Tom Blackwell

The pharmaceutical industry has done it for years, officially to educate doctors, unofficially to convince them to prescribe more of their medicines.

Now the practice of company-sponsored seminars by specialists known in the drug business as “key opinion leaders” — and criticized as salespeople in disguise – has come to the burgeoning world of medical cannabis.

Shoppers Drug Mart is running a series of events across the country to teach prescribers about the drug, as the 1,300-store chain prepares to become a major marijuana retailer.

The agenda plays up the “internationally renowned” speakers’ academic and health-care affiliations, but fails to mention that almost all have ties to marijuana-producing companies or private cannabis clinics.

The development underscores the growing corporatization of medicinal weed — and has critics of Big Pharma’s influence on doctors worried about a possible new front in direct-to-physician marketing.

“I think this is a serious problem,” said Dr. Joel Lexchin, a health-policy expert and emergency doctor in Toronto. “There is definitely a need for doctors to learn how to appropriately prescribe medical marijuana. But that should not be paid for by the people who stand to profit from increased sales.”

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