With the use of medicinal cannabis rising, the NSW Cannabis Medicine Advisory Service is becoming a critical resource for doctors needing clinical guidance.
Over the past decade, the therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis has been increasing, albeit with an ongoing debate in the medical community about its use and efficacy.
Those who favour its use point to a range of health benefits including:
Assisting with the management of nausea
Use as a muscle relaxant
Relieving chronic pain
Supporting their arguments are the belief that medicinal cannabis is safer than other medications (e.g. opioids), that it can be taken in numerous ways and that it is ‘natural’ and has been effectively used for centuries as a remedy. However, those less supportive of its use point to the fact that there is still not enough clinical data to support its widespread use, although this resistance may lessen over time as the results of more studies – particularly longitudinal studies assessing long-term use – are reviewed and released.
Despite these mixed opinions in the medical community, governments around the world are increasingly making medicinal cannabis legally available and prescribable in a sign that it is coming to be accepted more as a treatment for certain ailments.
Based at John Hunter Hospital in New England, the service is available to both GPs and specialists as part of the NSW government’s $21 million commitment to further investigating the safe and appropriate use of cannabis medicines by clinicians who wish to pursue them in the treatment of serious or debilitating conditions.
Advice the NSW CMAS can provide
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has released clinical advice for doctors and consumers on the use of medicinal cannabis. However, given the ongoing and emerging nature of the use of medicinal cannabis, the NSW CMAS further supports NSW doctors who require more detailed expert advice on the prescription of medicinal cannabis.
The service is particularly useful because it has a trove of critical, detailed and up-to-date information at its disposal to offer doctors looking at prescribing medicinal cannabis. This effectively means doctors are more able to focus on what they do best – offer excellent patient care – rather than get too caught up in time-consuming research already being undertaken by the NSW CMAS.
The service assists with:
Understanding the latest evidence around cannabis medicines
Being across the regulatory requirements for cannabis prescription
The tools to use to monitor a patient progress
Provision of protocols to facilitate cannabis medicine prescription
More detailed information around dosing and titration in individual patients
Using the service can also assist with moving forward with applications to prescribe medicinal cannabis by ensuring applications have all the most relevant and complete information possible, potentially speeding up the application process and removing impediments to approval.
How has the NSW CMAS been received by doctors?
In December 2021, Cannabiz, an Australian resource devoted to the business of cannabis, pointed to two online surveys conducted between January 2020 and June 2021 evaluating health practitioner experience of using the NSW CMAS. Of the 68 health practitioner respondents, there was a strong positive response to the use of the service as being useful (82%), practical (59%) and evidence-based (59%).
The survey also revealed the nature of medical issues doctors were most interested in the prescription of medicinal cannabis for, with chronic-non cancer painthe most frequent (70%), followed by insomnia (13%) and palliative care (13%).
While this sample size is presently small, over time it is expected more data will be collected to continue evaluating the service.
How do doctors access the NSW CMAS?
The NSW CMAS is available to all NSW doctors and healthcare professionals for further information.
Operating during normal office hours – Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm – it can be accessed by email HNELHD-CMAS@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au or telephone (02) 4923 6200.
Are you interested in pursuing a role? We have roles available within medicinal cannabis for both General Practitioners (GPs) and Pharmacists – get in touch to find out more.
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