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Arthritis Society to launch employer toolkit for medical cannabis coverage

New program will help address employee needs around affordability of necessary medication

TORONTO, February 13, 2018 – As a forward-thinking advocate for the needs of Canadians living with arthritis and related chronic pain conditions, the Arthritis Society today announced that it is leading the way by introducing a program and toolkit to help employers cover the costs of cannabis for medical purposes for employees through their company-sponsored employee benefit plans.

The innovative new program will provide a cost-effective, sustainable and progressive way of ensuring that scientifically validated use of prescribed medical cannabis can be supported through a company’s benefit plan in the same way as other prescription drugs.

Since 2001, medical cannabis has been a legal treatment option in Canada for certain health conditions, including arthritis. More than half of Canadians who use cannabis for medical purposes do so to help manage arthritis symptoms.

The Arthritis Society has worked with a team of well-recognized patients, physicians, benefits consultants and other experts in the field to help develop the program. As of February 1, 2018, the Arthritis Society is providing medical cannabis coverage for its employees, their spouses and dependents, under its employee health benefits plan. Under the program, the Arthritis Society will provide coverage up to $5,000 per year, which is a meaningful level of reimbursement for a broad range of health conditions including chronic pain.

The Arthritis Society and its partners will study the impacts of the new program, and will invite other organizations who adopt similar programs to share their results in an aggregate report to identify key learnings and further refine the approach. This effort supports the Arthritis Society’s ongoing commitment to promoting arthritis-friendly workplaces.

Supporting resources for employers will be released after President and CEO Janet Yale presents at the Conference Board of Canada’s Marijuana At Work conference taking place in Toronto this week. The conference, already sold out, will include a workshop with some of the Arthritis Society’s panel of experts to share the model with progressive employers interested in adding medical cannabis to their own benefit plans.

For information about including medical cannabis in an employee drug benefit plan, contact Cheryl McClellan at 416-979-7228. For more information on the Arthritis Society’s work in support of research and education about medical cannabis, please visit arthritis.ca/medicalcannabis.

Janet Yale, Arthritis Society president and CEO:

This initiative speaks to our commitment to respecting and meeting the needs of our employees, and more broadly to ensuring that Canadians living with diseases like arthritis have fair and affordable access to the treatments they need. By modelling that principle through our own benefits plan, we are leading by example, signalling to other Canadian employers that adapting their plans to accommodate medical cannabis is not only possible, it’s necessary. 

 

Mike Sullivan, CEO, Cubic Health:

We feel privileged to be involved with The Arthritis Society as they continue their leadership role in developing a sustainable and evidence-based approach to offering medical cannabis coverage to plan members who have failed on traditional therapies. We hope the framework they have pioneered will be a model for other employers who are looking to offer coverage to members who can benefit from another therapeutic option within their plan.

 

Dr. Caroline MacCallum prescribing physician:

I am optimistic that other employers will follow the Arthritis Society’s lead by adopting similar, inclusive, medication benefit programs. This will continue to reduce the stigma of medical cannabis, and more importantly improve access and affordability for safe supply of medical cannabis for those living with chronic pain.

 

Dr. Michael Verbora, prescribing physician:

Providing coverage for medical cannabis is important in removing financial barriers for patients attempting to improve their health through cannabinoid therapy. As more providers begin to bring in coverage for patients suffering from chronic health conditions, I strongly believe we will see a healthier, happier society that relies far less on potentially harmful pharmaceuticals.


About The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society is a national health charity, fueled by donors and volunteers, with a vision to live in a world where people are free from the devastating effects that arthritis has on lives. Begun in 1948 with one very clear goal – to alleviate the suffering of people crippled by arthritis – that same volunteer-led passion carries on today in communities across Canada. Through the trust and support of our donors and sponsors, the Arthritis Society is Canada’s largest charitable source of investments in cutting-edge arthritis research, proactive advocacy and innovative solutions that will deliver better health outcomes for people affected by arthritis. The Arthritis Society is accredited under Imagine Canada’s Standards Program. For more information and to make a donation, visit arthritis.ca.

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For further information, please contact:

Alicia D’Aguiar
Communications specialist
Arthritis Society
1-800-321-1433 x3354
adaguiar@arthritis.ca

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