Regan Schoultz is an NZME news service reporter based in Auckland.

Medicinal cannabis gains support from experts

Medicinal cannabis has long been a contentious issue with many calling for easier access to the drug and lower costs. Photo / iStock
Medicinal cannabis has long been a contentious issue with many calling for easier access to the drug and lower costs. Photo / iStock

Medical experts are supporting of the Government's approach to prescribing cannabis-based products.

Feedback from specialists and the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA), released today, was unanimously supportive of the existing guidelines and process.

The feedback comes after the Ministry of Health undertook a targeted consultation with a range of medical specialists and the NZMA to determine whether the guidelines used to assess applications for prescribing cannabis-based products were still fit for purpose.

Medicinal cannabis has long been a contentious issue with many calling for easier access to the drug and lower costs.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said he welcomed the support.

"The consistent feedback from experts in their field was that cannabis-based products should be treated no differently to other medicines -- evidence-based principles should and will continue to be followed."

The specialists consulted agreed the guideline recommending a patient be hospitalised when treatment with a non-pharmaceutical grade cannabis-based product was initiated should be removed. That has been actioned.

Mr Dunne said identifying the greatest therapeutic benefits and determining the most appropriate ratios, dosage and delivery mechanisms would only come through a robust, scientific approach.

"Otherwise, we are essentially flying blind and hoping for the best, an approach that flies in the face of evidence-based medicines policy," he said.

"It is my hope that by releasing this feedback it will go some way to balancing out the irresponsible and ill-informed messages being passed off as fact, and provide a degree of reassurance to those who are genuinely looking for respite to significant health issues."

Ministry of Health figures show it received 79 applications to use medicinal cannabis between the beginning of 2013 and March this year and authorised 75.

The issue of medical marijuana was brought into the spotlight in 2013 after use of the drug by broadcaster Paul Holmes was made public.

Sir Paul died age 62 in February that year after battling heart problems and prostate cancer.

His wife, Lady Deborah, said he was not a drug user but "in the final weeks it was the one thing that could give him peace and comfort".

She said it wasn't just the pain but the anxiety that was relieved by the marijuana. "It relaxed him," she said.

Earlier this year it was also revealed former top cricketer Martin Crowe had been self-medicating with liquid marijuana in the final months of his life, according to his close friend, former English international Mike Selvey.

- NZ Herald

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