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.

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