Sun Life Financial sets a precedent by covering medical marijuana in Canada

07-06-2018 Posted in cannabis use disorder

Sun Life Financial Inc., a Toronto-based insurer, has taken a groundbreaking decision to include medical marijuana coverage as an option for its group benefits plans in Canada. The initiative will certainly set a precedent for other insurers.

Sun Life, which provides health benefits coverage to over 3 million Canadians and their families, started providing coverage for medical marijuana ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 per individual per year from Mar. 1, 2018. The Sun Life plan members must meet specific criteria to qualify for the coverage. They need an authorization letter from their physician and should be registered with a medical marijuana producer licensed with Health Canada. Moreover, it will be available only for specific symptoms related to cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and palliative care.

According to Jonathan Zaid, executive director, Patient Advocacy Group, Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana,  the above step is a result of years of litigation for the acceptance medical marijuana. He further stated that it will pave the way for simplifying the entire process of covering medical marijuana.

Sun Life will periodically examine studies and clinical research highlighting the use of medical marijuana for other conditions. Upon review, it would update its criteria from time to time, if necessary. The offering of medical marijuana as a coverage option will make it easier and cheaper for patients to access it. Moreover, it will give more pricing power to producers.

Pharmacists and other insurers warming up to cannabis

The Canadian Pharmacists Association and two Quebec groups representing the industry are of the view that pharmacies need to play a leading role in the distribution of medical marijuana. Meanwhile, Shoppers Drug Mart has drawn up supply agreements with licensed producers, depending upon the approval of their application by Health Canada to dispense the drug.

Another Canadian insurer, Manulife Financial Corp., is offering medical cannabis coverage selectively to clients who want to consider introducing it as an option. However, the company recommends some limitations and management controls as this market is still at a nascent stage. The number of medical marijuana patients was 235,000 at the end of September 2017 compared to approximately 98,500 a year earlier, said Vahan Ajamian, a research analyst with Beacon Securities Ltd.

Seeking help for drug addiction

In the United States, marijuana is legal for medical purposes in 30 states and Washington, D.C. With the rules being significantly different for each state, medical marijuana dispensaries and home cultivation are allowed in some states. Of the remaining states, some allow only home cultivation and a few allow dispensaries.

A growing body of research supports marijuana use for various medical problems, including pain, muscle spasms, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

However, a systematic review and meta-analysis of the benefits and adverse events of cannabinoids in marijuana plant was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Unfortunately, it found little evidence for marijuana’s efficacy in treating health conditions, except chronic pain and muscle stiffness from multiple sclerosis. The therapeutic benefits for other conditions are yet to be proven. Till then, one is advised to consume such drugs only under medical supervision.

If you or a loved one is afflicted with drug addiction, it is imperative to seek professional help. The 24/7 Drug Addiction Helpline assists in accessing the state-of-the-art inpatient drug abuse treatment centers in the United States that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-403-5607 or chat online with our medical advisers to know more about the outpatient drug abuse treatment centers managed and run by trained staff.

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