Last Month Peter Dunne announced the results of the Ministry of Health review into the guidelines that assess applications for ministerial approval to prescribe cannabis-based products.
MCANZ, and the patients we represent, find these proposed changes underwhelming, our particular points of concern being:
- lack in MC expert knowledge of persons consulted;
- reluctance of medical professionals to prescribe Medical Cannabis (MC);
- benefits of MC in palliative care misunderstood; and
- lack of funding for any MC products.
The main point of failure in the review is that the level of clinical experience in prescribing MC in New Zealand is incredibly slim, a single reputable specialist from the states may prescribe MC to more patients in 6 months than the entirety of NZ has ever had prescribed. Though the review consulted well-regarded medical professionals in New Zealand, we understand there was no or minimal consultation of medical professionals with expert knowledge and extensive experience in prescribing MC.
“Some Medical Cannabis experts in the states with less formal medical backgrounds still have a body of knowledge from first-hand experience that leaves the sum total of NZs clinical experience in the dust” says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.
MCANZ believes that MC should not be a medicine of last resort. MC has far less toxicity than other pharmaceutical medicines commonly used. For example, Phenobarbital which is used to treat pediatric epilepsy, is highly sedating and has been implicated in causing brain damage in rare cases, and Levetiracetam (Keppra) is known to cause “Keppra Rage” in some cases, a side effect that is feared in the patient community. MCANZ feels that the use of experimental medicine like MC is preferable to invasive procedures, our patient community includes patients who have had drastic procedures such as a Hemispherectomy (surgical removal of part of the brain), to treat severe epilepsy.
If MC products are a last resort, then the medical profession and the ministry should not delay in prescribing it when lives are at risk. Earlier this year one paediatric patient was scheduled to start Sativex on the day they passed away, and last year another family was about to begin the application process the week their child passed away. MCANZ had planned to fundraise for this first child in our #MC410 campaign but unfortunately the last resort approach was “too little, too late” to help them.
One of the parents of these children who wished to remain anonymous stated “Medical Cannabis may not have helped in our case, but there is a great deal of anguish about being denied the opportunity to trial it. The responsibility for this does not lay at the hands of the Minister or the Ministry, but in the reluctance and hesitancy of our specialists to consider the