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Despite legalisation, medicinal cannabis remains confusing dilemma for Australian doctors and patients

August 21, 2017

Cancer sufferer Matilda Kubany-Dean, 21, speaks to NSW Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, December, 2016. Doctors are recruiting cancer patients in a world-first cannabis trial in NSW for the prevention of chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting.

Frustrated Australian patients could still be several years away from their GPs prescribing medicinal cannabis, the Australian Medical Association's (AMA) vice president has warned.

Since publishing a range of stories on medicinal cannabis, many readers have contacted nine.com.au complaining that their GP is unwilling to prescribe what are now legal products.

Others have expressed frustration, claiming their GPs did not understand how to obtain medicinal cannabis approval or the perceived benefits of the medicine.

Dr Tony Bartone, AMA vice president, told nine.com.au he does not see those patient-doctor exchanges changing anytime soon.

There are currently three medicinal cannabis trials ongoing in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

Until those clinical trials are complete, Dr Bartone said Australian GPs have "virtually no real role to offer" medicinal cannabis to patients.

"We need the information and evidence from those trials to inform appropriate preparations, concentrations and delivery," Dr Bartone said.

"We are at least a couple of years off in terms of clinical guidelines that will inform GPs," he said.

Dr Bartone said even when those three clinical trials are complete, medicinal cannabis would likely only be prescribed to sick patients suffering "certain narrow conditions".

He said specific evidence from various international studies showed "moderate strength evidence" that medicinal cannabis could help people.

Dr Tony Bartone said clinical studies and guidelines would normally have been conducted and drawn up before a new product comes to market. (AAP)

Dr Bartone acknowledged there had been problems with the Special Access Scheme encountered by doctors and patients.

He blamed the current situation on "popular political will" to implement a solution before the usual clinical research and regulatory guidelines had been conducted and completed.

"This has been very much different to the usual process," Dr Bartone said.

"Usually studies and evidence and documentation is all in place before GPs have the ability to prescribe."

GPs, tell me your concerns, realities, frustrations in total confidence: msaunoko@nine.com.au

Meanwhile, many Australians appear confused by the federal government's newly legalised system and their ability to access medicinal cannabis.

One reader told nine.com.au his wife is sick with stage 4 breast cancer and had multiple requests for medicinal cannabis "fobbed off" by her oncologists.

Others who contacted nine.com.au claimed their GPs had told them to find medicinal cannabis on the black market because of bureaucratic difficulties sourcing products through Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Dr Bartone said the TGA has protected Australians for many years and the process had to be respected.

Originally published here: http://www.9news.com.au/health/2017/08/21/11/37/medicinal-cannabis-remains-confusing-dilemma-for-australian-doctors-and-patients

 

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