GPs, pharmacists questioned about medicinal cannabis

Kiwis haven’t been shy about asking their doctors and pharmacists about medicinal cannabis, a new survey shows.

A snapshot of almost 1100 medical professionals revealed two-thirds of GPs — and 77 percent of head pharmacists — had fielded requests for the products over the past year.

Regulations, licensing rules and quality standards around medicinal cannabis are to be set later this year, after Parliament recently cleared the way by passing amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The country’s biggest licensed medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, commissioned Horizon Research to carry out what was the first independent poll of medical professionals on the issue.

All pharmacy owners polled said they would be willing to stock the products, while 70 percent of head pharmacists said they believed the country would benefit overall from greater availability.

Eighty-nine percent said they would prescribe the products for one or more of 20 medical conditions, if they had enough information.

A minority of the health professionals surveyed (6 percent) reported being “very well informed” about the products.

Rates were higher among those who were “well enough informed” (18 percent) and “somewhat informed” (42 per cent).

The remainder were “somewhat uninformed” (13 percent) “poorly informed” (14 percent) and “very poorly informed” (7 percent).

Elsewhere, the survey found 61 percent of those polled would prescribe the products for chronic pain, 59 percent for cancer, 47 percent for multiple sclerosis, 42 percent for radiation or chemotherapy side effects and 40 percent for epilepsy.

By contrast, far fewer appeared willing to prescribe them for dementia (18 percent), glaucoma (13 percent), osteoporosis (9 percent) or diabetes (7 percent).

Helius Therapeutics’ executive director, Paul Manning, said the demand shown by the survey reinforced how important it was to have an effective scheme that addressed patients’ needs and expectations around access.

Nonetheless, he believed the results would be encouraging for patients and New Zealand’s emerging cannabis industry.

“The survey also reinforces to us that doctors will prescribe only the highest-quality cannabis products, supported by thorough information,” Mr Manning said.

“Understandably, many New Zealand medical professionals just haven’t had the exposure to cannabinoid medicines, so information and education for doctors, in particular, will be critical to patient accessibility.”

The New Zealand Medical Association said rules around the products should be consistent with that for other medicines, and that they should be kept separate from debate about the legal status of cannabis for recreational use.

The association didn’t support smoked cannabis as a medicine and said caution was needed before recommending the products for “loosely identified medical reasons”, due to known harms and weak evidence around their efficacy as a medicine.

Its chairwoman, Warkworth GP Dr Kate Baddock, said some products such as the cannabis-based Sativex were already available and doctors were aware of the requirements around prescribing them.

She wasn’t surprised that such a high number of GPs reported getting questions.

“It’s not necessarily that people are saying ‘I want it’ — it has generally been more of an inquiry than a request.”

There was likely also some misunderstanding among the public as to what medicinal cannabis actually was, said Dr Richard Medlicott, medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

“If cannabis is to be used and regarded as a medicine it would need to meet the same standards as other pharmacological medicines,” he said.

“This includes having robust clinical evidence of the efficacy and safety of the treatment, control over dosages, clear understanding of side-effects and how the treatment interacts with other medication.” — NZ Herald

Kiwis haven’t been shy about asking their doctors and pharmacists about medicinal cannabis, a new survey shows.

A snapshot of almost 1100 medical professionals revealed two-thirds of GPs — and 77 percent of head pharmacists — had fielded requests for the products over the past year.

Regulations, licensing rules and quality standards around medicinal cannabis are to be set later this year, after Parliament recently cleared the way by passing amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The country’s biggest licensed medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, commissioned Horizon Research to carry out what was the first independent poll of medical professionals on the issue.

All pharmacy owners polled said they would be willing to stock the products, while 70 percent of head pharmacists said they believed the country would benefit overall from greater availability.

Eighty-nine percent said they would prescribe the products for one or more of 20 medical conditions, if they had enough information.

A minority of the health professionals surveyed (6 percent) reported being “very well informed” about the products.

Rates were higher among those who were “well enough informed” (18 percent) and “somewhat informed” (42 per cent).

The remainder were “somewhat uninformed” (13 percent) “poorly informed” (14 percent) and “very poorly informed” (7 percent).

Elsewhere, the survey found 61 percent of those polled would prescribe the products for chronic pain, 59 percent for cancer, 47 percent for multiple sclerosis, 42 percent for radiation or chemotherapy side effects and 40 percent for epilepsy.

By contrast, far fewer appeared willing to prescribe them for dementia (18 percent), glaucoma (13 percent), osteoporosis (9 percent) or diabetes (7 percent).

Helius Therapeutics’ executive director, Paul Manning, said the demand shown by the survey reinforced how important it was to have an effective scheme that addressed patients’ needs and expectations around access.

Nonetheless, he believed the results would be encouraging for patients and New Zealand’s emerging cannabis industry.

“The survey also reinforces to us that doctors will prescribe only the highest-quality cannabis products, supported by thorough information,” Mr Manning said.

“Understandably, many New Zealand medical professionals just haven’t had the exposure to cannabinoid medicines, so information and education for doctors, in particular, will be critical to patient accessibility.”

The New Zealand Medical Association said rules around the products should be consistent with that for other medicines, and that they should be kept separate from debate about the legal status of cannabis for recreational use.

The association didn’t support smoked cannabis as a medicine and said caution was needed before recommending the products for “loosely identified medical reasons”, due to known harms and weak evidence around their efficacy as a medicine.

Its chairwoman, Warkworth GP Dr Kate Baddock, said some products such as the cannabis-based Sativex were already available and doctors were aware of the requirements around prescribing them.

She wasn’t surprised that such a high number of GPs reported getting questions.

“It’s not necessarily that people are saying ‘I want it’ — it has generally been more of an inquiry than a request.”

There was likely also some misunderstanding among the public as to what medicinal cannabis actually was, said Dr Richard Medlicott, medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

“If cannabis is to be used and regarded as a medicine it would need to meet the same standards as other pharmacological medicines,” he said.

“This includes having robust clinical evidence of the efficacy and safety of the treatment, control over dosages, clear understanding of side-effects and how the treatment interacts with other medication.” — NZ Herald

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