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New booklets to remove the mystery regarding medicinal cannabis for patients, doctors

Information booklets on medicinal cannabis, which aim to make it easier for doctors to prescribe the controversial drug, have been released.

Advocates have placed part of the blame on the low adoption of medicinal cannabis products on most doctors having little knowledge about it.

Information pamphlets on medicinal cannabis are now available. Photo: Max Mason Hubers While experts believe up to 100,000 Australians are using cannabis to treat their medical conditions, only about 150 are doing so legally. The Turnbull government on Friday released five disease-specific booklets based on the most up-to-date evidence for doctors when considering the treatment.

Five-year-old critically ill Gemma with her mother Ally Tregent. Photo: Eddie Jim These are palliative care, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, chronic non-cancer pain and epilepsy. "These are the conditions which had the largest number of studies," Health Minister Greg Hunt said. "The documents provide clinical information on the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis and guidance for its use in treating symptoms for a number of conditions." There is also a booklet that gives an overview on prescribing medicinal cannabis and one that contains information for patients.

Dr Bastian Seidel, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president. Mr Hunt said the evidence for the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis was inconsistent, despite the growing number of Australians showing interest in using it. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Bastian Seidel said the booklets were comprehensive. He said side-effects were not known for medicinal cannabis but this was the same for many treatments currently in use, which was reasonable given the lack of evidence. "We must be open-minded," Dr Seidel said. "Medicinal cannabis has never been the first choice for medical conditions. We need appreciate the treatment with medicinal cannabis is emerging." Advocates have complained it's a nightmare to gain access to the drug. Dr Seidel said this was because a national regulatory framework was desperately needed. Each booklet outlines the evidence for each disease, with some giving an alphabet score for each cannabis product's success to treating symptoms, such as pain, tremors or quality of life. The booklets contain information on potential side effects, which appear to be less severe than opioid medications. It suggest a "start low, go slow" approach in dosage. The booklets warn that medicinal cannabis could expose patients to life-long use of the drug, but state there is no strong data on this. It says the drug should be used as a last resort, when all other treatments had failed and are not appropriate for patients with conditions such as mood or psychotic disorders. Originally published here: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/new-booklets-to-remove-the-mystery-regarding-medicinal-cannabis-for-patients-doctors-20171221-h08tqq.html

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