Les­sons in use of medic­i­nal cannabis

Sunday News - - NEWS -

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.

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