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Medicinal cannabis will never be a prescription medicine, says expert

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    Medicinal cannabis will never be a prescription medicine, says expert
    • 9 hours ago February 02, 2015 12:19AM

    Debate ... three states are looking at making cannabis available for medicinal use. Picture: Marc McCormack Source: News Corp Australia
    CLINICAL trials of cannabis for medicinal purposes won’t see it approved for prescription and should not delay a law change allowing the use of the drug, an expert says.
    The former Dean of University of Melbourne’s medical school Professor David Penington says the varying potency of cannabis means it will never be marketed as a pharmaceutical.
    “Cannabis can never be a pharmaceutical agent in the usual sense for medical prescription, as it contains a variety of components of variable potency and actions, depending on its origin, preparation and route of administration,” he says in the latest issue of the Medical Journal Australia published Monday.

    Controversy ... terminally ill grandmother, Debbi Cliff, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, has been charged by the Queensland Police Service for the use of medicinal cannabis. Picture: Marc McCormack Source: News Corp Australia

    Three states are currently examining making cannabis available for medicinal purposes and the federal Senate is set to debate a private member’s bill to set up a regulator to oversee the production and distribution of the drug.
    The NSW government is spending $9 million on three trials examining the use of medicinal cannabis for children with severe, drug-resistant Epilepsy, adults with a terminal illness suffering pain, nausea and vomiting and those with chemotherapy-induced nausea.
    ACCEPTED: PM has no problem with medicinal cannabis
    But Professor Penington says a double-blind clinical trial of cannabis is not possible because people would easily become aware whether they were receiving the drug or a placebo, he said.
    “The clinical trial proposed, if successful, presumes that cannabis would then be approved and regulated as a pharmaceutical substance,” Professor Penington writes.
    “Cannabis has variable effects on individuals. It will not be possible to determine universally safe dosage of cannabis for individuals based on a clinical trial.”

    Aid ... medical marijuana used to treat uncontrolled epilepsy. Picture: Eugene Hyland Source: News Limited

    The use of cannabis should be decided by the patient, following medical advice about the condition from which they seek relief, those using it would have to register for it and purchase it from a registered supplier, he said.
    Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made an election pledge to legalise cannabis oil and tablets for medicinal use by the end of 2015.
    And a Tasmanian parliamentary committee is examining the issue in that state.
    Professor Penington is urging a faster go ahead of medicinal cannabis claiming Australia is “behind the times”.
    In the US 23 states have legalised use of cannabis for medical conditions, as have Israel, Holland and the Czech Republic, he says.

    Differences ... the effect of cannabis varies from person to person and depends on its origin and how it is administered says Professor David Penington. Picture: Supplied. Source: Supplied

    Clinical trials of the drug won’t be useful because they won’t be able to determine a universally safe dosage.
    “Response to cannabis varies from person to person partly due to genetic variation among users, he said.
    The drug has two active elements THC and CBD.
    THC produces a powerful euphoria but also hallucinations and psychotic effects.
    CBD does not give a high but can suppress nausea and pain, he says.
    There is some evidence cannabis can accelerate the development of schizophrenia and that it is linked to social, behavioural and mental problems when used frequently by people aged 15 to 25.
    The POINT study of people suffering from chronic problems such as back pain, migraine and arthritis recently found 16 per cent of patients had turned to cannabis to relieve their symptoms even though they’d been prescribed opioids like morphine and oxycodone.
    Perth-based company Phytotech plans to work with farmers in the US and Uruguay to grow indoor and outdoor marijuana crops for medicinal purposes. It listed on the Australian sharemarket this month.
    It estimates the global cannabis industry is worth up to $US100 billion ($128 billion).
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