Most patients who have spoken to their GP about accessing medicinal cannabis for chronic pain over the last 12 months have seen no change in their willingness to prescribe it, according to Chronic Pain Australia’s National Pain Survey 2021.

While 38.77% of the 2,233 patients surveyed said they had raised the treatment option with their doctor, the responses described were mostly negative, with GPs commonly citing cost and ignorance of access pathways as barriers to entry.

Examples include:

  • “They think it’s unaffordable.”
  • “She was not comfortable [prescribing] it to me due to not knowing enough about the process to access it, but gave me a health summary so I could go through another clinic.”
  • “This was a new GP whom I want to take over my care, not my existing one, and he said his only concerns were the cost, and that he’d feel awful if he prescribed it for someone, and they paid hundreds of dollars only to find it didn’t work for them.”
  • “They didn’t have much knowledge about it, but they were willing to support and help me to get access to it.”
  • “They think it’s a great idea, but it’s too expensive.”

Among those who had discussed medicinal cannabis with their GP for more than 12 months, only 13.45% said they had noticed a change in their willingness to prescribe the treatment for chronic pain management.

Those who did report a change said the improved attitude often resulted from positive outcomes for the patient themselves or other people known to the GP.

For example:

  • “She said she had a family member in another country that uses it and said it is incredible how much it helps them.”
  • “I went through a cannabis clinician to access cannabis. My main GP’s attitude toward cannabis seemed to improve after seeing the improvement in my health after starting treatment.”
  • “Considering I have been using cannabis not legally, they are becoming more accepting that it’s the path I want to take. All doctors talk about not using opiates for long-term use, but what else am I meant to use for my long-term pain?”

In total, 2,233 people responded to the survey across Australia, with 89.11% identifying as female, 9.72% male, 0.27% transgender, 0.31% other and 0.58% preferring not to say.

Earlier this year the Faculty of Pain Medicine at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) recommended against prescribing medicinal cannabis for chronic non-cancer pain.