An interview with Zack Dumont, BSP, ACPR, MS, a clinical pharmacist with the RxFiles Academic Detailing Service in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada and a NaRCAD Training Facilitator
by Winnie Ho, NaRCAD Program Coordinator
Overview: The Cannabis Act went into effect in Canada in October of 2018. The legalization of a drug with strong potential for a myriad of clinical uses was followed by many questions from patients and providers alike about its effectiveness, its safety, and lack of previous research. The RxFiles have carried out a cannabinoid academic detailing campaign to address the demand for truth in a time where research has just begun to shed light on previous myths, misconceptions, and clinical promises.
NaRCAD: Zack, thank you for taking the time to speaking with us today! RxFiles has been around for more than 20 years. What do you do you believe is driving the demand for the resources that academic detailing is providing?
Zack: There’s an element of doubt in the information out there, because people have experienced misinformation before. People are often interested in the truth and that’s one of the most amazing things about academic detailing. There is also a desire for practical information that can be used to actually treat patients, and there’s a ton of overlap there. These things are important to these very, very busy providers who want the best for their patients.
NaRCAD: We know that your team is working on a cannabinoid campaign, which can be a nebulous topic. Can you discuss a little more about cannabinoid policy and conceptions in Canada?
Zack: We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of recreational marijuana legalization, but medicinal cannabis has been legal for about two decades. With the legalization of recreational cannabis though, we’re seeing fairly rapid change in perceptions of what the truth is. It’s tough to keep up with.
With academic detailing, it was challenging to decide how to tackle it – can we just talk about the medicinal cannabis side? Or do we have to dive deeper? When we dug into it, it became clear that we also had to talk about the recreational side. For example, the people we provided our services to also wanted to know, “if I decline my patient cannabis prescriptions, what will they be able to get on their own?”
NaRCAD: Did RxFiles choose to launch its cannabinoid campaign with the passage of the Act, or has this been planned for a longer period of time?
Zack: It’s coinciding with our work on pain, following our work on pain and opioids. In addition, because legalization was approaching, the providers had more questions because their patients were asking about cannabis as an alternative to opioids.
NaRCAD: How have provider responses been to the cannabinoid campaign so far?
Zack: It’s welcomed. Our information is usually welcomed. There’s some frustration over how little information there is out there. While frustrating, I think it’s kind of comforting to know that we’re not that far behind. It’s kind of mixed, but at the same time, they’re still happy to get information from a trusted resource. There's a lot of gray area information right now because it's a newer field.
NaRCAD: Right now is a shifting and transformational time, especially with something like cannabinoids with a distinct history of stigma and legalization, even with all this new interest. As an academic detailer, how do you source your information knowing that there isn’t enough research out yet and a lot of gray area information? How do you begin to build a campaign around a topic like this?
Zack: The evidence pyramid gives us the best approach for practical information, for people who are the interface of care. You want to find high quality, synthesized information. Whether its osteoporosis or COPD or pain or cannabis, you start with the guidelines and figure out what kind of information they are providing. We started with some recently published guidelines and it was a synthesis of systematic reviews, and made an attempt to summarize all the evidence of where cannabis was found to be of benefit. We also reviewed the bibliography with all the primary literature and metanalyses.
This process is pretty similar for any academic detailing topic. The other process is going to the people we provide services for, and asking what their patients are asking to treat with cannabis. They tend to ask about cannabis for pain, insomnia, or for things like tremors and that gives us some guidance in terms of what kind of literature we want to find. Of course, we are also looking into what the key messages are in the information we find and distribute. With cannabis, the interesting thing was the lack of information on the different conditions it could be used for. In some ways, it was easier, as weird as it sounds. We didn’t have as much reading to do on that topic.
NaRCAD: Is there any advice you would give any other academic detailing organizations considering this topic for a campaign?
Zack: One, you’re going to have your conversations about stigma. There isn’t a perfect picture of who uses cannabis and it could be absolutely anyone. You’ve got to have the conversation about stigma and get to know your own biases.
In the same vein, we thought about how important word choice and language is. We thought about whether or not we call it cannabis, marijuana, pot, or cannabinoids. Do we call it a medication or a product? All of those words and the considerations that we’ve given opioids - do we call them "addicts", or is it "dependence", and what are the differences between addiction and dependence? The third piece would be that you’ve got to talk to your providers in your local area and find out what their main questions are.
Your job is to provide a service, and if you can find out what their wants and needs are, you’ll provide a far more satisfying service for them and could establish strong relationships that you can build on. There will be a lot of information out there and you will need a lot of leads to help you sort through it all. This won’t be the last time we're addressing this.
NaRCAD: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, and for leading the charge in bringing cannabinoids to the conversation about treatment for pain.
Zack Dumont is an clinical pharmacist with the RxFiles Academic Detailing Service in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada and a new expert facilitator for NaRCAD's training courses. He has been involved with the RxFiles since 2008, with experience in both academic detailing and content development of RxFiles’ evidence-based drug therapy comparison tools. Zack maintains clinical practices for inpatient internal medicine, with more specialized experience in anticoagulation and heart failure. His professional interests include teaching evidence-based medicine, knowledge translation, development of clinical decision supports, collaboration, and leadership.
Zack graduated as a Pharmacist from the University of Saskatchewan in 2008. Following graduation, he completed a hospital pharmacy residency with the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, where he currently serves as a Clinical Support Pharmacist, with involvement in training new staff, precepting pharmacy residents and undergraduate students, and providing clinical support to various health region committees and working groups.
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