Almost half of GPs are opposed to medicinal cannabis being available over the counter in pharmacies even though most agree it’s less harmful than opioids.
The findings, presented to ACannabis conference delegates by Lambert Initiative clinical trial coordinator Zeeta Bawa, come from an online survey of 505 doctors conducted between November 2021 and February 2022.
While 79% agreed only GPs with specific training should prescribe medicinal cannabis, and 47% opposed it becoming a schedule 3 medicine, a significant majority (64%) believed it to be less hazardous than prescription opioids.
A further 64% viewed it as safer than benzodiazepines, while 57% considered it to be less harmful than chemotherapy drugs.
Of those surveyed, 85% had received at least one enquiry about the medicine in the past three months, but only 52% said they were comfortable handling those enquiries. Furthermore, 67% said they lacked knowledge of its applications in clinical practice. indicating an ongoing need for education.
Meanwhile, 44% said they were unconvinced of its clinical efficacy, 62% believed the prescribing process was too difficult, 61% considered it to be too costly for patients and 65% worried about its effects on driving.
Interestingly, respondents were also concerned about potential weight gain for patients even though it is not a known side effect.
Bawa said: “What this tells us is that concerns are not always related to the available information.”
And while 51% of the cohort agreed they know how to help patients legally access medicinal cannabis, only 22% had actually prescribed the medicine.
Bawa said while most GPs are receiving enquiries about cannabis, they have a low perceived knowledge and are not comfortable handling them.
“There is a greater need for educational activities to better support clinical practice,” she added, in findings which echo a similar survey conducted in 2017 soon after medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia.