The battle to persuade GPs of the benefits of medicinal cannabis just got harder after the Faculty of Pain Medicine at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) and the International Association for the Study of Pain expressed doubts about its efficacy for chronic pain.

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.

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As part of the global Choosing Wisely awareness campaign, ANZCA issued advice to GPs stating: “Do not prescribe currently available medicinal cannabis products to treat chronic non-cancer pain unless part of a registered clinical trial.”

ANZCA’s advice to GPs: “Do not prescribe currently available medicinal cannabis products to treat chronic non-cancer pain unless part of a registered clinical trial.”

It added: “The evidence available is either unsupportive of using cannabinoid products in chronic non-cancer pain, or is of such low quality that no valid scientific conclusion can be drawn.

“Cannabidiol-only formulations have not been the subject of a published randomised controlled trial (RCT) for pain indications, yet they are the most commonly prescribed type of product.”

“In addition, evidence of harms does exist, particularly in relation to sedative effects, interactions with other medications and neuropsychiatric effects (for products which contain tetrahydrocannabinol).

“Given the above, the clinical use of cannabinoid products cannot be ethically recommended outside a properly established and registered clinical trial environment until high-quality evidence for specific indications is published.”

The Dean of ANZCA’s pain medicine faculty Professor Michael Vagg told the Sydney Morning Herald medicinal cannabis products on the market “are not even close” to showing they are effective in treating patients with complex chronic pain.

He said: “The research available is either unsupportive of using cannabinoid products in chronic non-cancer pain or is of such low quality that no valid scientific conclusion can be drawn.”

“Substances like alcohol are more effective pound-for-pound, but we don’t have extended opening hours at Dan Murphy’s for pain patients.”