Ontario injured workers shut out of medical pot coverage – told to take opioids instead


    Many injured workers in Ontario are being given an ultimatum: take probably addictive cocktails of opioids and different prescribed drugs, or pay on your personal assist, a CBC Toronto investigation has revealed.

    Insurers like Ontario’s Office Security and Insurance coverage Board (WSIB) are incessantly refusing to assist injured workers who need to flip to seemingly much less dangerous medication like medical marijuana.

    “We now have an opioid epidemic right here in Canada,” mentioned Maurice Sagle, 60, a former carpenter. 

    “I am pondering [the WSIB] higher get out of the previous.”

    For it is half, the WSIB says it is decreasing the quantity of drug claims for opioids and offers with requests for medical pot “on a case-by-case foundation.” 

    Sagle’s backbone was compressed, some of his discs had been shattered, his left leg muscle was ruptured and his arch was flattened in 2016 when a roof truss fell on his shoulder.   

    He says the WSIB has agreed to pay for the 1000’s of {dollars} in opioids he is been prescribed, however will not pay a cent for medical marijuana.

    ‘The extra you do, the extra you need to do’

    Sagle says the opioids left him dazed, depressed and typically unable to depart his dwelling. He says he was changing into more and more unsociable and felt he was changing into addicted.

    “The extra you do, the extra you need to do” mentioned Sagle. “To me it was very harmful stuff. It was fairly effectively controlling my life. I mentioned, ‘I want to get my life again, I want to do one thing about this.'”

    Maurice Sagle spent 40 years working as a miner and a carpenter. (Yvon Theriault/CBC Information)

    Sagle, who would not drink or use leisure medication, did his personal analysis and found pot may assist him.

    He acquired a medical marijuana licence with the assistance of his physician and turned to a pressure of pot that’s excessive in cannibanoids, generally known as CBDs.

    He says it decreased his persistent ache. Additionally, the pressure he was utilizing has no THC — the psychoactive compound that makes pot-smokers excessive.

    “I do not need to be buzzed out, and might’t afford a fall,” Sagle mentioned.

    But regardless of its many advantages, Sagle says, he’s nonetheless combating the WSIB for coverage.

    “They mentioned they do not acknowledge this and so they despatched me a paper saying no, they would not cowl it.”

    Sagle says it is irritating. 

    “I am attempting to assist myself get a greater life,” he mentioned.

    “It is natural, it made my physique really feel significantly better and it did lots of issues for me.” 

    Sagle orders his pot from a authorities licensed producer. However he is now locked in a prolonged, difficult and expensive course of of interesting the WSIB`s determination.

    ‘Absurd eventualities’

    He is not alone.  

    “You typically find yourself with these absurd eventualities the place the WSIB is blissful to pay for opiates and antidepressants that aren’t efficient, that the employee doesn’t need to take” mentioned David Newberry, a lawyer with the Injured Workers Neighborhood Authorized Clinic in Toronto.

    Newberry says in lots of circumstances, marijuana can also be cheaper than the host of opiates and different prescribed drugs workers are being prescribed.

    Medical marijuana has been authorized in Canada since 2001, but there seems to be an ongoing debate about its use in treating the sick or injured. The Canadian Medical Affiliation (CMA) has been opposed to medical marijuana for the reason that starting and says the overwhelming majority of medical doctors aren’t comfy prescribing it.

    “It is essential to acknowledge that by and huge, that degree of proof would not attain the standard that we demand for each different product that physicians prescribe,” mentioned Dr. Jeff Blackmer of the CMA throughout an interview with the CBC’s Quirks and Quarks. 

    Newberry says there’s another excuse why the WSIB is leery of medical marijuana.

    “I am positive WSIB and different non-public insurers have a worry of being accused of funding leisure medication,” he mentioned.

    ‘I seem like a 90 12 months previous’

    Robert Vachon is one other Ontario employee who battled with the WSIB over his use of medical marijuana after years of heavy handbook labour destroyed his again.

    “I could not work; the ache acquired so unhealthy I used to be utilizing a walker. I could not rise up straight. I used to be bent over. Folks would say I seem like a 90-year-previous,” mentioned Vachon, 49.

    Robert Vachon, 49, says the checklist of opioids and different prescribed drugs he was on was pages lengthy. Now it is simply medical marijuana.

    For years, the WSIB paid for his many prescriptions, together with opioids and muscle relaxants. 

    “I had three completely different pages of medicines I used to be on, and none of it labored,” he recounted.

    When he complained concerning the medication and the shortage of enchancment in his well being, he claims his WSIB case supervisor told him to return to work.

    Vachon says the medication additionally left him dazed and bedridden for days at a time.

    “My despair acquired so unhealthy, there was a pair of occasions I did suicide makes an attempt,” he mentioned. 

    Vachon started researching the consequences of medical marijuana — particularly the pressure full of CBDs with little or no THC. His physician initially refused to prescribe pot for him, however modified his thoughts after Vachon acquired his palms on some and started taking it. 

    ‘There is not any unwanted effects, it isn’t addictive’

    “After three days, I am getting out of mattress with out stiffness,” he mentioned.

    After three weeks of taking the medical marijuana, he says, he was in a position to dump the motorized scooter he had relied on, in addition to his walker.

    “I used to be standing up straight,” he mentioned. “There is not any unwanted effects, it isn’t addictive, it is pure.”

    Vachon says he now not wants the antidepressants, as a result of his psychological well being is again to the place it was prior to his office damage. He takes three capsules of floor marijuana a day and makes his personal cream he can apply to his again when wanted.

    Regardless of the dramatic turnaround, the WSIB  refused to let him basically commerce in his many pharmaceutical prescriptions for medical marijuana.  

    It took a number of years, and an limitless stream of paperwork, Vachon remembers, however he ultimately received an enchantment of the WSIB’s authentic determination.

    The WSIB is now masking his roughly $500 a month in medical marijuana prices.

    However as Newberry notes most injured workers aren’t as lucky when coping with the WSIB.

    He says the WSIB refuses most medical marijuana requests, however is commonly compelled to pay when workers take on the arduous job of taking the insurance coverage company to a 3rd-social gathering enchantment tribunal. The method can take two years or extra.

    ‘2 lessons of injured workers’

    That “creates two lessons of workers,” mentioned Newberry.

    “One the place people who find themselves in a position to entry illustration as a result of they’ll afford a lawyer or as a result of they qualify for authorized help are in a position to get the drugs that’s proper for them. And one the place folks cannot get a lawyer and might’t afford the drugs.”

    Christine Arnott of WSIB Ontario says the board cannot talk about particular circumstances.

    However the WSIB is “at all times trying on the evolving scientific proof across the effectiveness of ache administration and replace our strategy accordingly,” she mentioned.

    “We’re centered on limiting publicity to the harms related to opioid use and reducing threat of dependancy. Up to now we have now decreased the quantity of WSIB drug claims for opioids by 47 per cent. We deal with requests for coverage of medical marijuana on a case-by-case foundation.

    “We are going to proceed to assist folks handle their ache based mostly on proof, to allow them to safely return to work.”




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