Most health specialists think that GPs should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis products without the need for sign-off from a specialist, according to a new survey.
The survey, commissioned by Helius Therapeutics and carried out by Horizon Research, asked questions of 728 health professionals including GPs, specialists, junior doctors and nurse practitioners.
The Government is currently seeking public feedback on its proposal for a regulatory framework for cannabis-based medicines, and one of the key aspects are the prescribing rules.
The current proposal is for doctors and nurse practitioners to be able to prescribe Medsafe-approved medicines, and specialist sign-off required for ones that are not Medsafe-approved.
What constitutes a specialist is still to be determined, and there is concern that if the bar is set too high, it would detract from the desired outcomes of quality medicines becoming more affordable and accessible.
The survey results showed:
• 64 per cent of health professionals said GPs should be able to prescribe without needing sign-off from a specialist; 24 per cent disagreed and 12 per cent were unsure
• 68 per cent of specialists also said that GPs should be able to prescribe without needing sign-off from a specialist
• 71 per cent said there would be not be enough specialists to cope with patient demand; 15 per cent said there would be; 14 per cent were unsure.
• 44 per cent said their practice would not meet demand created by referrals to specialists; 29 were unsure; 27 said they could meet demand
• 58 per cent said sign-off from a specialist would likely lead to delays in access to medicinal cannabis
•37 per cent said the need for specialist sign-off would push costs too high
The survey has a margin of error of 3.7 per cent.
Helius Therapeutics executive director Paul Manning said the results shed light on questions about the capacity of the health sector to cope with expected demand.
"Serious concerns about the lack of capacity in our healthcare system to cope have now been confirmed by the very people who work within it. This is a real wake-up call."
Public feedback on the consultation document closes on August 7.
The regulations are expected to be in place by December, and companies are hoping to have products available for prescription by the middle of next year.