Are doctors for medical cannabis?

23 January 2019

Medical cannabis is a relatively new treatment option in Australia. There are a limited but growing number of doctors currently prescribing medical cannabis. This doesn’t mean that a doctor is for medical cannabis (or against it), simply that most practitioners may lack experience and some may not be comfortable prescribing this type of medicine.

The application process imposes additional challenges that are not an issue for established treatments, creating an added barrier for doctors to prescribe.

Please note: Little Green Pharma are able to support doctors with the application process if they are open to prescribing medicinal cannabis. Please ask them to contact us directly on (08) 6280 0050 or email medical@lgharma.com.au so we can assist.

Doctor Consultation

Before consulting with your practitioner there are steps you can take to learn more about this new treatment option and share with your doctor:

1) Do some research and take it to your next appointment

You can look for clinical studies online that relate to your condition in order to support your decision for wanting to discuss medical cannabis.
Printing out these studies to take with you to your next appointment means you can discuss the clinical evidence with your medical practitioner. Peer-reviewed studies can help a practitioner understand more about medical cannabis as a treatment option for your condition and help support your doctor’s understanding of your decision for wanting to consider medical cannabis.

You can find research relating to various conditions by visiting GreenChoices.

2) Be honest about your experience.

When discussing your condition, make sure you discuss with your doctor how you feel and the effects of the medications you have tried. Discuss what has worked and what hasn’t and why you believe medical cannabis might work as an alternative treatment.

It’s important to be honest and advise your practitioner if you’ve already tried cannabis and what the effects were – regardless if they had a positive or negative effect.

Please note: Street cannabis and medical cannabis are different, particularly in relation to quality control, potency, known cannabinoid concentration and the potential for harmful additives in street cannabis. Medical cannabis in Australia is highly regulated to ensure patient safety, consistency of product formulation and the absence of  potentially dangerous contaminants such as pesticides and moulds. Furthermore, researchers have observed a trend of increasing THC concentration in street cannabis (with reduced CBD concentration) which has been linked to an increase in the risk of adverse events.

3) Have patience

Doctors have legal obligations to comply with regulations in relation to medical cannabis and the prescribing guidelines, however education around these guidelines is only just starting in Australia. Showing patience towards doctors who still have questions or need more evidence to feel comfortable prescribing is important.

There is still much to learn about the benefits of medical cannabis and how to prescribe it with confidence. Both doctors and researchers are exploring the evidence of this treatment for various conditions and how it compares to standard medicines.

4) Consider your circumstances

When considering any new treatment, you should consider the possible impact on your overall life e.g. will any side effects interfere with a regular activity that is important to you e.g. operating heavy machinery? Driving? Employment testing? Can you afford this treatment?

The cost of medical cannabis in Australia is varied and depends on a number of considerations such as a patient’s condition and the product being prescribed. It is estimated that medical cannabis can approximately cost from $150 up to $3,650 per month (a range of $5 to $120 per day).

Your doctor needs to know about these practical matters so they can choose the right treatment for you and develop a treatment plan that works for your circumstances.

Please note: There is currently no PBS subsidy available for medical cannabis so this cost will be worn entirely by patients.

What if my doctor is interested in prescribing medical cannabis but doesn’t know where to start?

We suggest the following steps:

1) Ask your doctor to contact Little Green Pharma directly (08) 6280 0050 or email medical@lgpharma.com.au so we can provide them with the information they need.

2) Ask your medical practitioner to also sign up to the GreenChoices restricted access portal to access comprehensive resources for doctors.

What if my doctor isn’t interested in prescribing medical cannabis?

As many practitioners still lack experience and knowledge, or may not be comfortable treating patients with medicinal cannabis, your doctor may not be prepared to apply for, or to prescribe this medicine for you.

In this case, there are still options available for a patient if they still wish to explore medicinal cannabis as a treatment option:

Option One

Ask your doctor if they would consider medicinal cannabis if they could get assistance in the application process.

Answer is YES?

Then please ask them to contact Little Green Pharma directly on (08) 6280 0050 or email medical@lgharma.com.au as we can help provide information and support with the application process.

Answer is NO?

You can ask if your doctor would consider writing you a referral to another doctor. There are a growing number of practitioners in Australia who are educated and open to prescribing medicinal cannabis as a second line treatment and if a patient is eligible.

You could advise your doctor that you will look for a practitioner to work with them and contact some of the below clinics as an option:

Cannabis Access (national):
cannabisaccessclinics.com.au
Ph: 1300 991 477

Compass Clinics (NSW only)
compassclinics.com.au

CDA Clinics (QLD & VIC clinics, national telehealth)
cdaclinics.com.au

Emerald Clinics (WA & NSW only)
www.emeraldclinics.com.au
Ph: 1300 436 363

Option Two

If your doctor is NOT prepared to prescribe medicinal cannabis or write you a referral form, and you still wish to explore medicinal cannabis as a treatment option, you could try and find another practitioner who is informed and comfortable to discuss this treatment option.

Please visit GreenChoices to find a doctor.

There is a list of Medical Practitioners currently informed about medical cannabis, registered with GreenChoices who have consented to their details being published. This list will continue to grow so if you can’t see a local doctor, please register to find out when more practitioners are added.

Option Three

Reach out to local advisory services which are designed to help patients in these situations such as Chronic Pain Australia, Epilepsy Action Australia etc.

Download the above as a pdf – Talking to your doctor about medical cannabis.

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