This week The Medical Cannabis Clinics had the pleasure of taking part in and exhibiting our company at the Acute and General Medicine Conference. As the MD, this was a great opportunity to understand where the industry is at the moment.
How did we we find it:
Medical cannabis is everywhere across media outlets following the release of the NICE guidelines, so this event was attended by a significant number of GPs and specialist consultants – many of whom have little to no knowledge of the cannabis plant and its uses in medicine.
The acceptance and knowledge of medical cannabis amongst them varied wildly, with the overwhelming consensus being: they didn’t know enough about the substance but thought it sounded like it might be useful. A big step forward for the industry here was the inclusion of twotalks around medical cannabis, the first being a thirty minute presentation by neurologist and complex care specialist Dr Liz Iveson that was attended by over a hundred delegates.
The second session, led by Dr Michael Platt, focused on the impact of medical cannabis on pain. The inclusion of these sessions highlights the fact that the medical community, driven by daily inquiries from patients, is asking more and more questions themselves.
A major issue that doctors working in A&E told me is that they just see people ‘out of it’ from smoking – they had no idea that there are more than 130 different cannabinoids that could be behind this. What these doctors are describing is driven, most likely, by high levels of THC bred into illegal and unregulated recreational products. This is no doubt something that is not delivered through medical school modules, and naivety is a broad problem.
Many doctors were unaware of how to administer medical cannabis and were under the false impression that you can medicate only by smoking. This is not the case. It is occasionally vaped but is mainly taken as an oil in drops or in capsule form. A few GPs even asked if it’s injected or given in the form of a pill. These questions are forgivable though, as there has been very little in the way of education, especially in the primary care scene, given it is a drug of last resort. The challenge for GPs is substantial as patients can be well-informed, but just as easily can be armed with alarming amounts of incorrect information that GPs cannot correct.
Pain specialists were by far the most receptive of the attendees and all had some basic knowledge of medical cannabis. Upon further discussion it was clear that they wanted a platform or event to learn more, and an opportunity to support gathering larger evidence-based research for the UK market.
This is of course a separate issue from the currently fashionable CBD retail scene. While there are some good over-the-counter CBD products that can provide good benefits, we’re talking specifically about medical grade EU GMP standard prescribed medical cannabis. It has been legal to prescribe since November 2018, but owing to the startling lack of movement in prescriptions, the question arises – what are the medical community and policymakers doing to support doctors?
The government changed the law with no clear plan to educate and support practicing healthcare professionals, let alone academic or institutional resources. The NICE guidelines appear to be heavily steered towards pharma led products and totally omit pain or psychiatric conditions – despite the growing evidence base from other countries around the impact of medical cannabis on chronic pain and the side effects versus opioids.
Over a year on, there’s still a great deal to sort through, and a tremendous amount of frustration among patients whose hopes were raised last year. It would appear there is some light at the end of the tunnel though.
Events like the AGM give me the opportunity to speak to a number of open minded medical professionals who want to educate themselves further, to satisfy an academic curiosity and understand how to put this wonderful plant into practice to support their patients where other medicines have failed.
The Medical Cannabis Clinics, with the support of The Academy of Medical Cannabis, are here to help support the education of doctors and open up patient access to trained and experienced specialists.
To read more about our training services and book a training date, please visit The Academy page.