New advice to GPs from the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) on prescribing medicinal cannabis puts patients at risk and could drive them further towards the black market, according to industry leaders.
The industry has reacted with dismay to the advice not to prescribe medicinal cannabis products to treat chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) unless they are part of a registered clinical trial.
The Faculty of Pain Medicine at ANZCA claimed a lack of clinical trials meant there is no robust evidence to prove cannabinoids are effective in alleviating suffering.
However, Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia (MCIA) chair Peter Crock warned the advice risked pushing patients towards the black market.
“Taking the position that medicinal cannabis can only be prescribed as the ‘last resort’, or not prescribed at all because of a lack of evidence, potentially drives patients to source illicit or unknown product as they often desperately look to improve their quality of life.”
He described the Special Access Scheme as a “progressive and positive step” towards improving patient access while the evidence base is built to allow products to be taken through the registration process.
“While not a silver bullet, where products meet safety standards, and are delivered to a well-characterised quality standard, medicinal cannabis has a valuable role to play in helping patients,” Crock added.
Chair of independent body the Healthcare Practitioner/Patient Advisory Council Richard Di Natale agreed the evidence for medicinal cannabis for CNCP is still in its infancy, but said NPS Medicinewise and the TGA have developed guidelines that indicate a clear role for its use.