This week the Victorian Government announced that it will be launching a medicinal cannabis scheme, with patients with a range of conditions being able to access the medication. However, some doctors say they will shun State’s medicinal cannabis programme.
A number of doctors in Australia have spoken out against the establishment of a medicinal cannabis program in the country, claiming it could lead to more people being addicted to drugs.
Doctors who treat epilepsy patients say they would avoid the government’s medical cannabis access program because they are concerned that it will make “inappropriate and possibly harmful” products accessible.
Nine neurologists have written to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, together with patient organizations, to voice their concerns about the products that would be marketed.
THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, is present in all four products that have been approved for inclusion so far.
The letter says that “not only is there a dearth of evidence to support the use of THC in epilepsy, but there are substantial concerns about its mental and cognitive consequences, especially when taken in children.”
While CBD, another cannabis component, is proven to be reasonably safe for patients under professional supervision, the physicians note out that no CBD-only products have been approved for use under the program.
They claim that the dangers of THC chemicals are “underappreciated.”
“The program faces the danger of not being used since there is considerable worry about the program among neurologists in Ireland (because unsuitable and possibly hazardous goods will be accessible via the program),” they added.
a problem with the supplier
No cannabis-based medicine is accessible under the program to treat patients with severe epilepsy two years after it was launched, and no patients have enrolled with the access program.
According to the HSE, the provider of two of the items has lost interest in the Irish market. Another supplier claims that a “export license time-lag” in the place of production has caused a delay in product availability.
One of the items is scheduled to be available in October/November, however this date may be pushed back due to a change in the nation of production for some of the products.
Experts treating the illness are worried that the program may lose a chance to assist its patients.
Dr. Colin Doherty, a consultant neurologist at St James’s Hospital, called the program a “farce” and claimed it was “bizarre” that no appropriate solution for his patients was available.
“Every day, I get furious calls from patients informing me the plan is up and running, but there is nothing on it for them,” he added. “This is meant to be the answer, but it can’t, won’t, and never will deliver for patients and their families in its present form.”
Brendan Hogan of Ballon, Co Carlow, with his son Ben.
Jo and Brendan Hogan of Ballon, Co Carlow, feel they have exhausted all therapeutic options for their 21-year-old son Ben, who suffers from severe epilepsy. He is now on his 12th seizure medication, but Dr. Doherty has recommended that he need a different treatment.
He has up to five seizures each day and spends up to 80% of his time coming in and out of seizures.
Severe seizures may cause him to fall “in a nanosecond,” according to his parents, putting him at danger of harm. He wears a helmet on a regular basis after breaking his jaw twice in four years. Despite the fact that he is unable to take the Leaving Cert owing to his illness, he continues to attend school on a daily basis.
Dr. Doherty thinks that cannabis-based medicines may assist individuals with severe epilepsy who aren’t responding to more traditional therapies, like as Ben. However, he cautioned that although they are worthwhile to attempt, they are not “silver bullets” or “wonder cures.”
He thinks that CBD-containing therapies may help up to 500 epileptic patients who experience weekly seizures and have failed to respond to previous treatments.
Documentation to enrol patients on a cannabis for medicinal use registry is presently being finalized, according to the government, in collaboration with experts.
While one medication has been authorized for patients under the access program, physicians who treat epileptic patients believe the THC content is too high to be used as a first cannabis therapy for most individuals.
According to Dr. Doherty, there is another appropriate product, but since it is produced in the United Kingdom, a change in product law will be required in the post-Brexit scenario to enable it to be sold in Ireland.
An government study from four years ago suggested the creation of a medical cannabis access program for patients suffering from three conditions: severe epilepsy, spasticity linked with multiple sclerosis, and nausea and vomiting connected with chemotherapy. Legislation was enacted in 2019, and the program has been in the works since then.
Patients must pay for their own therapy since one medication, Epidyolex, has been authorized to treat a limited range of epilepsy-related illnesses but has yet to be approved for payment.
The Hogans say they could not afford this but Dr Doherty says some of his patients are paying large amounts for CBD treatments not covered under the State’s drug schemes.
At least 63 patients have secured access to medicinal cannabis products from a pharmacy in the Netherlands, thanks to a license from the Dutch Ministry of Health. Because travel was hampered during the epidemic, the Department of Health has arranged for courier pickup and delivery of these goods to patients’ homes.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
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- some doctors say they will shun states medicinal cannabis programme 2017