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No Surprise Here: Doctors Tied To Pfizer 'Warning' About Cannabis

by Daniel Johnson

Legalization rally in Regina, circa 2012, photo by author
Legalization rally in Regina, circa 2012, photo by author

The National Post recently featured an article with an alarming headline; "Canadian doctor groups are warning about the adverse effects of cannabis: Health risks raised in new advisories include hallucinations, paranoia, dizziness and low blood pressure." 

The article begins with a repeat of the same, tired, disproven statement common in anti-cannabis articles; "There is little to no research to support the supposed benefits of medical cannabis, and what evidence exists suggests that using marijuana as medicine may do more harm than good, family doctors’ associations across Canada are telling their members."

Which is patently false, as every competent doctor is aware since the evidence in favor of cannabis is widely known and has been mounting in study after study, despite efforts by officials in law enforcement, backed by bureacrats in the corporate medical establishment to stonewall research. 

If you're not aware of the evidence, a comprehensive list of peer reviewed medical marijuana studies is available from, described as a 'nonprofit nonpartisan public charity, provides professionally-researched pro, con, and related information on more than 50 controversial issues from gun control and death penalty to illegal immigration and alternative energy.';

There are a lot of other sources for clear evidence;

Web MD has a good article called 'Results Of Medical Marijuana: What The Research Shows' that is largely positive on the topic, the National Organization For The Reform Of Marijuana Laws (NORML) also provides updated information on the uses of medical marijuana. 

The National Post article did nothing to dispute those studies, but focused on the opinions of Mike Allan, who writes the regular 'evidence based' update (called Tools for Practice) for the Alberta College Of Family Physicians, and is one of the dominant voices in the shrinking anti-cannabis 'old guard' in Canadian medicine.

Doctor Allan is also part of something called 'The Evidence Network', who describe themselves as creating 'original media content on public policy topics for publication in the mainstream media and links journalists with policy experts to provide access to non-partisan, evidence-based information'. They send out press releases and make it easy for media to cover medical stories. Since the National Post article is attributed to 'The Canadian Press' instead of a specific author, it's likely the National Post article is mostly or entirely a pre-written broadside from The Evidence Network. 

The Evidence Network is funded by the Canadian Institute For Health Research, once a well respected, independent organization, but has slowly devolved over time. 

In 2009, the CIHR promoted Dr. Bernard Prigent to it's Governing Council. Prigent was a registered lobbyist, vice-president and medical director of Pfizer Canada. Pfizer has long been known for illegal marketing practices, including bribing physicians and suppressing adverse trial results, and have been sued on numerous occasions, even reaching a $2.3-billion settlement, a new record for a criminal fine, in September 2009 - shortly before Dr. Prigent's appointment.

While the appointment was initially controversial among researchers, they had no power to stop it at the time, and eventually they got used to the changes and there has been little complaint since. He remained on the board until November 2015, remaining vice president of Pfizer Canada throughout his time with the CIHR.

 It is very important to understanding why, despite widespread support for cannabis among doctors, the governing medical bodies tied to pharmaceutical companies keep ignoring the evidence in favor of Cannabis and repeating disproven anti-cannabis theories, because this self-serving dishonesty and corruption by many members of medical governing bodies quite likely effects every other area of health research. 

The only cannabis study that has really given Doctor Mike Allan and others like him cause for concern is the one titled 'Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Prescription Medication Use In Medicare' from July 2016 by Dr. Ashley C. Bradford and Dr. David Bradford at the University Of Georgia. 

As the study shows; 'Using data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013, we found that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented. National overall reductions in Medicare program and enrollee spending when states implemented medical marijuana laws were estimated to be $165.2 million per year in 2013. The availability of medical marijuana has a significant effect on prescribing patterns and spending in Medicare.'

For people like Mike Allan, that study makes cannabis legalization a frightening prospect. 

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