GP link urged for medical cannabis
Doctors should be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients in chronic pain throughout New Zealand, an advocacy group has said.
The call, from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand, comes after Taranaki’s Helen Old this week gained approval to source medicinal cannabis products from Canada after a 12-month battle.
The 56-year-old, who has been battling multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord that has left her paralysed from the neck down, is one of only three people who have been given the green light to use different varieties of medicinal cannabis to treat pain.
It took Old, and her husband Peter, more than nine months to get her application before the Ministry of Health which took another two months to approve it.
Shane Le Brun, of Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand, said the process needed to be changed to benefit the tens of thousands high needs patients in New Zealand. The advocacy group aims to ‘‘Put Patients before Politics’’ and help others get access to medicinal cannabis through legal means. ‘‘It wouldn’t have taken nearly as long if the GP had the knowledge of cannabis based products and it was clearly communicated that GPs were able to prescribe them,’’ Le Brun said.
‘‘What we’d propose is that for products that have been approved in other cases, GPs who have a demonstrated learning of cannabis can make the applications themselves.’’ He said the move would require a proactive, forwardthinking approach to the medicinal use of cannabis, with doctors being educated about the products from medical school.
Le Brun said there had been a 100 per cent success rate getting Canadian products approved by the ministry and Canada had a system he would like New Zealand to adopt. He wanted to see the products made available as unregistered medicines and manufactured in New Zealand.
‘‘We would get the best cost that we could get for the patients, and as unregistered medicines GPs could prescribe them and notify the Ministry of Health that they are using it and what they are using it for, as opposed to having to seek permission every time.’’
The move would require an agency to be set up within the Ministry of Health to oversee cannabis cultivation.
The majority of new patients seeking medicinal cannabis didn’t want to grow it, they just wanted safe, sterile and easy to use products, Le Brun said.
Peter Old said the couple had received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, from people right around the world.
‘‘Everyone has been very supportive of the fact that people in pain ...should have the option of trying something that doesn’t affect anybody else’s life.’’
The couple are now working through the process of getting the approved products into New Zealand.