Medical cannabis research and treatment in Australia

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MCN speaks with Medical Cannabis Research Australia Director Sharlene Mavor about the state of cannabis research and treatment in Australia.

Buy Weed Online Australia. Medical Cannabis Research Australia (MCRA) aims to ensure that any Australian who needs medical cannabis is able to access it, by supporting cannabis research, educating prescribers and advocating at a policy level for a consistent, evidence-led approach. MCN speaks with MCRA Director Sharlene Mavor about the state of cannabis research and treatment in Australia. Buy Weed Online Australia

Where does MCRA fit within the greater Australian cannabis landscape?
We were formed in 2016, very soon after medicinal cannabis was legalized in Australia. Our founders and I realized that we needed a platform from which to educate both doctors and patients about medicinal cannabis; and which could also advocate for easier patient access and try and assist with some of the red tape which still exists to a degree around prescribing for doctors. I am also very passionate about sharing clinical research: I do my best to find it, understand it and break it down in such a way that patients can understand; I also send the relevant research I come across to doctors and use the information to inform the seminars we deliver.

We have spent most of the last five years running seminars in every major city around Australia, partnering with medical professionals from each state in Australia, including analytical chemists; as well as with patients, because it is important and valuable to hear from the patient’s perspective about how their medicinal cannabis use has impacted their life in a positive way. The seminars consist of TED-style talks for about an hour and a half from each presenter, followed by a panel where attendees can ask questions. We have conducted about 80 seminars so far around Australia; since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have had to adopt a webinar format. I have a chronic pain and medicinal cannabis webinar coming up in two weeks and there are already nearly 1,300 people registered to watch it – there is a huge interest in learning, particularly from patients.

Have you experienced any reluctance or pushback from doctors or clinical staff who may not be comfortable prescribing cannabis?
We are now just over four years post-legalisation, so we are actually starting to get a lot of GPs who are increasingly interested in prescribing medical cannabis. A lot of this has primarily been down to the patients pushing for access and asking their doctors to prescribe: it is probably one of the few times in healthcare that a particular medication has been demanded by the patient to treat their condition.

Not only do individual GPs prescribe medical cannabis, but we also have at least 10 cannabis clinics in operation, most of which have offices in every city in Australia; the staff in these clinics are typically much more experienced as cannabinoid clinicians because they focus solely on cannabis. This allows them to gain a lot of experience with different conditions, different strains and different formulations; and they have templates in place to ensure quick access for patients as well. Slowly, over time, we have seen a growing number of GPs make the conversion to prescribing cannabis. We are up to around 250 authorised prescribers – these particular doctors have special permission to enact continuous prescribing for patients. We’ve had around 80,000 approvals for prescription since legalisation, and the numbers are climbing incrementally, which is wonderful news.

Have research teams been able to access the right kind of cannabis for their studies? Have there been any interesting developments or discoveries in Australian cannabis research?

Australia has a big hotbed of research around cannabis: we have around 80 studies either currently underway or which have recently been completed. Most of the products used in Australian cannabis research are the imported products from Canada, because they are of such high quality; we also have products coming in from Israel and Europe.

Most of the studies which are currently underway are based around pain conditions, because the vast majority of cannabis prescriptions are for chronic pain. We have a number of studies in progress investigating cannabis as a treatment for seizure disorders and a few studies on addiction. We also have a couple of studies underway into cannabis and driving, with healthy participants – this is particularly important, because we need to get the evidence out there to show that it is possible to be using medicinal cannabis and still not be impaired to drive.

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