Medicinal cannabis moving too slow for patients

marijuana bud

An advocacy group for medicinal cannabis users and supporters has launched in the ACT, lobbying Government to make the drug’s use legal for medicinal purposes in the Territory.

The TGA has made an interim decision to create new S8 entries for cannabis, botanically derived extracts and Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) where they are botanically derived from cannabis. Today it released reasons for the scheduling delegate’s interim decision and invited further comment.

The Canberra Group, the Med Shed, provides resources for health professionals, patients and supporters.

Group coordinator Matthew Holmes told the Canberra Times that the process of making cannabis legally available for certain indications is taking too long.

“Cannabis as a medicine has a way to go to find it potential, and we want you as a health professional or patient to work in an inclusive community with the sole focus on the provision of the best medicine for each individual,” the site says.

It offers instructions for health professionals on how to create tinctures.

President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia ACT Branch, Amanda Galbraith, told the AJP that it is very understandable that people suffering from chronic diseases including epilepsy, or their parents, are frustrated with what they could see as the slow pace of Government and pharmacy efforts to bring regulated medicinal cannabis to the Australian marketplace.

“I’m really not surprised that they want to campaign with Government – if you want anything changed, that’s the way to go about it,” she says.

“The Guild’s stance is that the supply of medicinal marijuana should be within the regulations, as all other medicines are, with approval from the TGA.

“I understand it’s not fast enough for some of the people who want to use it – and a lot of the people in the community pushing for it are parents of children who have terrible outcomes, so from their perspective the quicker they can get to where their children can get these medicines that appear to be working well for them, the better.

“But we’ve also got to balance the desire for new medicines with good outcomes for some with the need to do it in a safe fashion, with appropriate trials.”

Galbraith says that there are currently many new medicines in the pipeline for a lot of different indications, and that these are all expected to undergo trials and provide data to the TGA to support their scheduling.

“This should be no different,” she says. “There’s also the fact that a lot of these patients are children. If you look at any new medicine, it should always go through trials and a period of time to observe side-effects and negative outcomes as well as positive. These trials don’t generally include children until we’ve moved down the path where we know a medicine is safe for adults.”

In the meantime, many patients are using compounds obtained in an “off-licence” fashion or smoking cannabis for symptom relief.

Galbraith says that while health professionals have been welcomed to the MedShed resource, there may be a risk to any pharmacist who provides compounds.

“Where does their indemnity insurance cover them in that area? There’s a risk to them and the patient there. And medical marijuana is a bit of a tricky topic in that there are so many compounds.

“And while we’re looking at trials using medical marijuana, what are we doing to manage patients who choose to smoke instead of using tinctures, and what are we doing about the mental health outcomes for them?

“We need to make sure we understand the risks of psychological distress that can happen and protect people as much as possible.

“The Guild and Government are looking at cannabinoid use under the S8 process, same as morphine, and that’s what we’re expecting to happen.”

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