Article by Tom Blackwell, Standard-Freeholder
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.”