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Health

Vets lobby to expand medical cannabis laws to include dogs, cats

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OTTAWA — Parliament Hill is going to the dogs today as veterinarians lobby MPs to authorize the use of medical cannabis for critters.

The vets are bringing five dogs to the Hill to draw attention to what they see as glaring omissions in the legalized regimes for medical and recreational marijuana.

The law does not allow veterinarians to prescribe pot for pets, even though preliminary research suggests it could be beneficial in treating pain, seizures, anxiety and other disorders — much as it is for humans.

Moreover, the law requires labels on cannabis products warning they be kept out of reach of children, but there’s no similar warning that they could be harmful to animals.

Dr. Sarah Silcox, president of the Canadian Association of Veterinary Cannabinoid Medicine, says her group has been told the omissions were likely “an oversight” that can be considered when the legalized cannabis regime is reviewed in three years.

But she wants more urgent action.

“For our patients, they age much faster than we do and this really isn’t an issue that can wait for a three-year review,” Silcox said in an interview.

Because vets can’t legally prescribe cannabinoids for animals, or even offer advice to pet owners on the most suitable products or dosages, Silcox said some people are taking it upon themselves to administer cannabis to their pets. They’re using products sold for human consumption or unregulated “black market” products marketed for animal use, but about which veterinarians have concerns about “safety and purity.”

“Veterinarians are able to prescribe almost any other drug, including things like fentanyl and other opioids and … prescription drugs that contain cannabis derivatives and yet we’re not able to authorize the use of cannabis itself,” Silcox said.

The prohibition on veterinary use of cannabinoids has made research into the potential benefits “challenging,” but Silcox said preliminary studies suggest positive benefits for managing pain from arthritis and other conditions, epilepsy, anxiety and general inflammatory conditions.

It is particularly useful for treating cats, who are more sensitive than dogs to the other pain medications currently used for animals, she said.

Silcox’s group and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have lobbied the government to authorize veterinary use of cannabinoids. Silcox said they’ve been told by the policy adviser to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor that it is not a priority at the moment, but can be considered when the Cannabis Act is reviewed in three years.

However, Silcox noted the government is in the process of reviewing cannabis regulations now in preparation for adding edibles and oils to the list of legal products next year. It would take only a “few small changes” to add vets to the medical practitioners authorized to prescribe cannabinoids and to change references to people to patients, covering both the human and animal variety, she said.

The Canadian Press


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Alberta

Alberta seeing spike in syphilis cases

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Syphilis rates way up in Alberta

Rates of syphilis in Alberta on the rise

Infectious and congenital syphilis rates have escalated across the province over the past five years, with a sharp increase in 2018.

The rapid increase in syphilis cases has spurred Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, to declare a provincial outbreak and encourage Albertans to get tested and protect themselves.

“We need to emphasize for all Albertans: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are a risk to anyone who is sexually active, particularly people who have new sex partners and are not using protection. I encourage anyone who is sexually active to get tested regularly. Anyone in Alberta can access STI testing and treatment for free.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health

In response to the sharp rise in 2018, a provincial outbreak coordination committee composed of Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and other provincial health officials has been activated. Over the next three months, the committee will develop a coordinated strategy and determine concrete actions to increase STI testing, promote public awareness and reduce the overall number of syphilis cases in Alberta.

“Sexual health is an important part of overall health. We are working with community partners to remove stigma and increase awareness about STI testing services throughout Alberta. If you are sexually active, make regular STI testing part of your health routine.”

Dr. Laura McDougall, Senior Medical Officer of Health, AHS

 

A total of 1,536 cases of infectious syphilis were reported in 2018 compared to 161 in 2014, almost a tenfold increase. The rate of infectious syphilis has not been this high in Alberta since 1948.

Congenital syphilis, which occurs when a child is born to a mother with syphilis, is a severe, disabling and life-threatening disease. While congenital syphilis cases were rare before the outbreak, there were 22 congenital syphilis cases between 2014 and 2018, one of which was stillborn.

Consistent and correct condom use is important protection against STIs such as syphilis. Like other STIs, the symptoms of syphilis may not be obvious. Health experts recommend sexually active people, regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation, get tested every three to six months if they:

  • have a sexual partner with a known STI
  • have a new sexual partner or multiple or anonymous sexual partners
  • have previous history of an STI diagnosis
  • have been sexually assaulted

Prenatal care including syphilis testing is available for all Albertans. It is critical that anyone who is pregnant seeks early prenatal care and testing for syphilis during pregnancy.

Anyone experiencing STI-related symptoms should seek testing through their local health-care provider. Call Health Link at 811, visit a STI or sexual health clinic or speak to a family doctor to find testing and treatment options.

 

Quick facts

  • 2018 case counts for infectious syphilis by AHS zone:
    • South Zone: 31 cases, an increase of 138.5 per cent compared to 2017
    • Calgary Zone: 206 cases, an increase of 7.3 per cent compared to 2017
    • Central Zone: 88 cases, an increase of 266.7 per cent compared to 2017
    • Edmonton Zone: 977 cases, an increase of 305.4 per cent compared to 2017
    • North Zone: 208 cases, an increase of 324.5 per cent compared to 2017
  • For further breakdown of STI 2018 numbers, see the 2018 STI and HIV Summary Report.
  • Alberta Health works with AHS and community organizations towards prevention, health promotion, outreach testing, education, harm reduction, and addressing stigma. Previous actions include:
    • Grants to the Alberta Community Council on HIV to support community organizations across the province to prevent and reduce STIs, reduce harm associated with the non-medical consumption of substances and support health in their own geographic locations.
    • Alberta Health has provided three one-time grants totalling a combined $2 million since 2017 to combat the rising rates of STI, including syphilis, focusing on raising awareness and education, reducing stigma and increasing testing and treatment.
    • Since 2016, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health have been working with over 100 provincial partners to develop innovative approaches to increasing access to STI services across the province.
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Education

Manitoba university cuts ties with Ebola researcher pending RCMP investigation

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Manitoba university severs ties with researcher escorted off premesis

WINNIPEG — The University of Manitoba says it has cut ties with an Ebola vaccine researcher pending the results of an RCMP investigation.

A spokesperson says the school is ending the non-salaried adjunct appointments of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng.

Qiu, a renowned virologist who received her original medical training in China, helped develop a vaccine for the Ebola virus at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Cheng also worked at the lab as a researcher.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said on Monday that it was taking steps to address an “administrative matter” at the lab after it advised the Mounties of possible policy breaches.

The laboratory is Canada’s highest-security infectious disease research facility dealing with deadly contagious germs.

Public Health said there is no risk to the public and the work of the lab continues.

The Canadian Press has been unable to reach Qiu or Cheng for comment.

The RCMP in Manitoba has confirmed it received a referral from the health agency, but has not confirmed whether Qui or Cheng is being investigated.

The Canadian Press

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