Pubdate: Tue, 07 Jun 2016
Source: Nelson Mail, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 Fairfax New Zealand Limited
Author: Adele Redmond


Medicinal cannabis advocates in Nelson are among those wanting 
international input after a "disappointing" review of guidelines for the drug.

A Government review of the guidelines released last month said five 
medical professionals who had made at least one application to 
prescribe approved medicinal cannabis product Sativex unanimously 
supported the current rules, suggesting only minor changes.

Requirements that all other treatment options should be exhausted to 
gain approval for Sativex and to be hospitalised if taking 
unapproved, cannabis-based medicine were removed but several 
advocates said the review didn't go far enough.

Shane Le Brun is the coordinator of Medicinal Cannabis Awareness New 
Zealand (MCANZ), a charity currently fundraising to provide Sativex 
for 10 patients across New Zealand.

He said that while the review consulted well-regarded medical 
professionals, the level of clinical experience in prescribing 
medicinal cannabis in New Zealand was "incredibly slim".

"Some medical cannabis experts in the [United] States with less 
formal medical backgrounds still have a body of knowledge from 
first-hand experience that leaves the sum total of New Zealand's 
clinical experience in the dust.

"A single reputable specialist from the States may prescribe 
medicinal cannabis to more patients in six months than the entirety 
of New Zealand has ever prescribed."

Golden Bay woman Rebecca Reider, who recently escaped conviction for 
importing cannabis products prescribed to her in the United States, 
is one of 12 individuals who publicly denounced the review, calling 
for an independent inquiry.

She said the "inward-looking" report was "wilfully ignorant" of 
overseas research into the medicinal benefits of cannabis and 
"dismissive" of patients' experiences.

"They have created an echo chamber of people [the current system] is 
working for and didn't talk to the people it's not working for."

Claims made in the report that applying for a Sativex prescription 
was not onerous and that social media over-hyped the usefulness of 
medicinal cannabis products were "callous and disrespectful" to 
patients, she said.

She also questioned the report's assertion that there was "a lack of 
legal mechanism" to allow patients at the end of their lives to 
self-administer non-approved pharmaceutical-grade cannabis. "Police 
haven't knocked on [terminally-ill union boss] Helen Kelly's door but 
they did knock on my door, and they do knock on the doors of 
less-prominent patients. It would be great if police didn't prosecute 
people using cannabis for serious medical reasons while we [New 
Zealand] look at the law."

Le Brun, of MCANZ, cited a 2010 Law Commission report which 
recommended police "adopt a policy of not prosecuting in cases where 
they are satisfied that cannabis use is directed towards pain relief 
or managing the symptoms of chronic or debilitating illness".

Announcing the review results last month Associate Minister of Health 
Peter Dunne said the feedback was "unanimously supportive that the 
guidelines and process are sound."

His position of a "robust and scientific" approach to cannabis had 
not changed, which meant "identifying the greatest therapeutic 
benefits and determining the most appropriate ratios, dosage and 
delivery mechanisms".

"Otherwise we are essentially flying blind and hoping for the best, 
an approach that flies in the face of evidence-based medicines 
policy." Frustrations over a heritage tree are at tipping point for a 
young Stoke family.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom