Lessons in use of medicinal cannabis
medicines that are available, how to prescribe them, and how to treat patients with them’’.
He experienced the benefits of the drug as he struggled with suicidal depression in his 20s, when he found it ‘‘a very effective anti-depressant’’.
A survey of several hundred GPs earlier this year found just over half (53 per cent) wanted training in cannabis medicine.
Two-thirds believed cannabis should be removed from the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Dr Ben Jansen, one of two GP presenters at the November 18 course, said there was a ‘‘vast knowledge gap within the medical community’’ when it came to the application of medicinal cannabis. ‘‘Really what we’re trying to do is bridge that gap to help doctors, nurses, and health professionals gain skills and become more confident.’’
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners hasn’t endorsed the course, but agreed those who attended and subsequently completed a Learning Reflection Form would gain Continuing Medical Education (CME) points.
GPs need to accumulate a certain number of CMEpoints each year.
College medical director Richard Medlicott said despite the lack of endorsement, the college recognised that engagement with the course’s content could be a useful process for doctors.
Medlicott said the college was in the process of developing its own policy on the use of medicinal cannabis.
‘‘We see this as a particularly important area to get right.’’
Medlicott acknowledged the difficulties faced by doctors and patients who tried to legally access medicinal cannabis.
‘‘We are free to prescribe CBD (cannabidiol) products, but there’s a real limitation in availability,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s actually very, very hard to get, and it’s hideously expensive.’’
Approved cannabis-based medicines aren’t funded by Pharmac and a month’s treatment can cost up to $1200.
Pearl Schomburg of Auckland Patients Group, which supports medicinal users of cannabis, said she was frequently contacted by people who wanted help accessing the black market.
She said a number were referred directly by GPs who recognised their patients couldn’t afford to fill legal prescriptions.
The new Government has promised a referendum on cannabis use by 2020.