Survey reveals high patient demand for medicinal cannabis information from GPs

Amanda Lyons

4/07/2018 2:39:31 PM

More than 60% of the surveyed GPs reported patients asking about medicinal cannabis, but lack of training and the onerous process required to become a prescriber remain a barrier.

Many GPs find the onerous and time-consuming bureaucracy involved to become a prescriber of medicinal cannabis to be a significant barrier. (Image: Alex Murray)
Many GPs find the onerous and time-consuming bureaucracy involved to become a prescriber of medicinal cannabis to be a significant barrier. (Image: Alex Murray)

Almost two in every three Australian GPs have had a patient ask about medicinal cannabis, a new study has found.
The study, ‘Knowledge and attitudes of Australian general practitioners towards medicinal cannabis: a cross-sectional survey’ was conducted by researchers from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney and published last month in the British Medical Journal Open. It reveals a high appetite among general practice patients for information about medicinal cannabis, with 61.5% of GP respondents reporting at least one patient asking about it in the three months before the survey.
Professor Iain McGregor from the Lambert Initiative told ABC News that medicinal cannabis is ‘a very live issue for GPs’, while also explaining that 58% of the GPs surveyed were in favour of GP prescription of medicinal cannabis for conditions such as cancer pain, palliative care and epilepsy.
However, most of the GPs surveyed also felt they had not received enough training about the use of medicinal cannabis to feel comfortable discussing it with patients. They also felt overwhelmed by the onerous bureaucratic process required for its prescription.
Dr Vicki Kotsirilos, the first GP in Australia to be authorised to prescribe medicinal cannabis by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has experienced these difficulties first-hand.
‘[GPs] do require special permission through the TGA and it is a long and bureaucratic process. [The RACGP] would like to see it improved,’ she told 2GB Radio.
Dr Kotsirilos said there are very few GPs prescribing medicinal cannabis at the moment, but the Lambert Initiative study shows many would like to learn more about it.
‘There are obviously GPs who are interested out there,’ she said.
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel agrees, and believes GPs are particularly well-placed for the prescription of medicinal cannabis. He would like to see Australian governments make it easier for them to do so, within reasonable safeguards in place.
‘Medicinal cannabis is never the first line of treatment for any medical condition, but there is substantial evidence it might be the treatment of last resort for some patients,’ Dr Seidel recently told newsGP.
‘If I have a patient who has tried all standard treatment options without success, I should be able to consider prescribing medicinal cannabis as a viable treatment option without having to wait months.’
The RACGP released a position statement, ‘The regulatory framework for medicinal use of cannabis products’ earlier this year, outlining its belief that a consistent national prescribing framework should be developed. The college is also working with the Federal Government to implement a more streamlined prescribing process.
‘We are hoping to see progress over the next couple of months,’ Dr Kotsirilos said.

Cannabinoid Medicinal cannabis Medicinal cannabis prescribing

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