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Sociedad Médica de Cannabis de Peru has played a major role in raising the profile of medical cannabis in Peru and helping it to be regulated.
How have you been involved in drafting of Peru’s regulatory framework?
Six years ago, when I began to study the cannabis plant, there was no legal framework for cannabis. The only education given was from an angle connected to the fight against drugs. There was no possibility of studying it further until 2019, when the law changed. The pharmaceutical college asked me to participate in the first expert committee for the health administration. The general agreement was that the use of cannabis had limited health benefits, and that Peru would follow the health recommendations of the National Science Academy of the US. Together with a group of doctors, we founded a small group called The Cannabis Study Centre and were invited by congressmen of Peru because they were interested in making a proposal in relation to the use of cannabis. We then developed with Dr. Mario Rios and Dr. Peter Gámez a legal project that was taken to congress and Gloria Montenegro. We also collaborated with two other projects that had already begun in 2017. The first project presented to congress was signed by Hernando Cevallos, the current Minister of Health. Cevallos declared that access to cannabis should not be just through conventional medicine but also through associations, a forward-thinking announcement for 2017 in Peru. Peruvian society and representatives continued to be conservative, so cannabis was only allowed to be dispensed by pharmaceutical laboratories, like any other medicine.
What is the current situation in Peru, and how do you evaluate patient access to cannabis?
It is still important that Peru eventually comes up with regulations less restrictive than what has been proposed. Now, patients have to be registered on the national patient platform, which is a legal requirement. Of the 24,000 people registered, under 50% have bought their cannabis legally. The other aspect is having the available pharmacies. According to the study we conducted on how illnesses could be treated with cannabis, we reached a figure that is seen repeatedly all over the world, which is about 20% of the population of Peru. Around 6 million people could benefit from the use of cannabis, and we are still not there yet in terms of access to cannabis.
What are the main benefits of a more democratic access to cannabis-based medical solutions?
It will benefit the part of population with chronic pain and illnesses related to the nervous system like Alzheimers, anxiety, or depression. Another large group is those people with problems with the immune system such as cancer. In Peru, like in other countries, there is a high number of people on chemotherapy. Every year there are over 70,000 detected cases. We had estimated that around 6 million people would benefit from the use of cannabis or improve their symptoms. These medications that in other countries are considered, like cannabis, as second line medications could be managed as first line medications as they have less side effects than the ones that are currently used. Also, these medications made with cannabis have a lower cost and the production with the correct regulations can be done in an ecological way. There is a large chain of benefits. Even the byproducts of cannabis can be beneficial.
What projects are you developing currently?
Apart from those projects where I am invited to collaborate, I am working on two of my own that are close to starting activities. Together with the doctors with whom we scientifically support projects for cannabis regulation and with whom we currently teach the first medical cannabis diploma in Peru with Cayetano Heredia University, we have inaugurated CANNAVITAL, a specialized clinic in cannabis treatments, in which we have been applying innovative treatments with cannabinoids, monitoring and analyzing data on the progress observed, with which we develop some specific formulas for each patient. We are close to starting the activities of our own magistral pharmacy and applying all the knowledge learned and propose new routes of administration with clinical support, which has not yet happened in the country.