Drug nod Medical marijuana approved as pain treatment in Barbados
BARBADOS is on the verge of having medicinal marijuana added to the formulary of the Barbados Drug Service.
In a historic move, the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ministry of Agriculture, Barbados Drug Service and the local medical fraternity will soon implement a joint programme that will give doctors here the green light to prescribe the drug once they complete training sanctioned by the Ministry of Health.
Importation of the range of drugs, known officially as cannabanoids, will be approved only as a last resort, if conventional methods of pain management have failed.
“The ministry [of Health] will be focused on the use of cannabanoids in very specific conditions,” the island’s Chief
Medical Officer, Dr Kenneth George, revealed in an exclusive interview with the Barbados Nation.
“Research has shown there is some therapeutic benefit. And with any drug, we realise there needs to be a predictable mechanism, duration of action and predictable side effects,” he added.
But the smoking of the vegetative version of the drug will not form part of the new programme.
“The Ministry of Health at this stage does not support the smoking of marijuana as a means of delivery of a medicinal product. The smoking, as we see it, is too unpredictable and causes too much psychotropic and neurotoxic effects, and at this time there is no clear evidence that smoking marijuana is used as the medicinal form,” George made clear.
He said the ministry’s programme would focus on oral forms of the medication, and that would be predominantly the type of cannabanoid made available to pain-management patients.
Oils and extracts from the drug will also be allowed.
Cannabanoids, because of their potency, will be considered Schedule 1 drugs, similar to morphine, and will therefore attract the same protocols to control importation, prescription and use.
“In the first instance, there would have to be importation.
When the cannabanoids come to Barbados we have to be absolutely certain that we can make sure what we give is what the patient gets, and that it has a predictable benefit. We expect medical marijuana will be given the same type of safeguards (as Schedule 1 drugs) to protect the population and the persons who will dispense the drug.”
The Ministry of Health will develop the guidelines for use of the drug, and will rely on local stakeholders to help roll out the programme. “We prefer to have a core group of persons who are recognised by the fraternity to be the initial gatekeepers with respect to the prescription and dispensing of medical marijuana,” George advised.
He said interested groups of persons had approached the Ministry of Health requesting some clarification on their status regarding the drug in the last several months, but ministry officials wanted to be patient in moving forward, and not have a knee-jerk reaction.
Still, Dr George expects that with the Ministry of Agriculture taking the lead role in the programme, Barbados becoming a legal and official producer of the drug for specific medicinal purposes may not be far off.
“The Ministry of Agriculture has been taking the lead in this project because there is strong evidence that medical marijuana would have economic benefits if Barbados was able to produce it down the road,” he added.
It is expected the programme could come on stream by next year.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA will soon become a prescribed drug for patients in Barbados.
DR KENNETH GEORGE