Pubdate: Tue, 26 Apr 2016
Source: Nelson Mail, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 Fairfax New Zealand Limited
Author: Adele Redmond


Nelsonians wanting a medicinal cannabis prescription are struggling 
to gain approval because of the lack of appropriate pain specialists 
in the region.

Medicinal Cannabis Awareness New Zealand trustee Shane Le Brun said 
no Nelson doctor has prescribed medicinal cannabis spray Sativex as 
yet, despite a number of chronic pain sufferers and their families 
clamouring for access.

The greatest barrier was the lack of a pain clinic in the Nelson 
region, he said.

"No one even has a show of getting it in Nelson at the moment. It's 
such a rigmarole patients are a bit hesitant to go shopping [around] for it.

"The forms for off-label [Sativex], if you've got a specialist who's 
got the cajones to go up against the Ministry of Health, there's no 
one playing God and shutting down applications. You've got to find a 
specialist - that's the hurdle."

Sativex is one of two medicinal cannabis products currently approved 
for use in New Zealand.

To be prescribed Sativex an approved specialist must provide proof in 
the form of medical studies that it is an appropriate treatment for 
the patient, and that all other options have been tried.

Le Brun is involved with a medicinal cannabis charity which hopes to 
raise $50,000 in six months, funding Sativex for 10 patients across 
New Zealand. The charity's secondary goal was to provide a $600 
US-based course on medicinal cannabis to interested medical professionals.

Training on medicinal cannabis would hopefully empower those within 
the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board to prescribe Sativex, Le 
Brun said.

A registered nurse, who did not want to be named, said her 
23-year-old daughter had been in severe neuropathic pain since age 11.

She has visited three hospitals, three pain clinics, two 
rheumatologists and twice been admitted to Starship Children's 
Hospital in 2006 and 2007 but no one in Nelson had been willing to 
prescribe Sativex.

One GP expressed concern to the family that prescribing medicinal 
cannabis would attract undesirable patients, the nurse said.

"I'm not a fan of recreational use [of cannabis] but I have seen a 
little girl suffer too long.

"It's an awful thing to see your child sweating and writhing in pain.

"We want to do it within the law. I'm not a pharmacist or a chemist. 
I want it to be totally above board and I want it to be something 
that's been used to treat pain, and that's why we know Sativex should be ok."

A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal found one in 20 
Kiwis over the age of 15 use cannabis for "medical purposes", but 70 
per cent of those also use it for recreation. Only 32 per cent of 
doctors would consider prescribing medicinal cannabis products if 
they were legalised.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom