Pharmacists are predicting a rush of people will try low-dose medicinal cannabis when it becomes available without prescription, as doctors recommend talking with general practitioners first before taking the medicine.
A final decision this week by the Therapeutic Good Administration to make low-dose cannabidiol (CBD) available for sale behind-the-counter without prescription came as a surprise to the medical, pharmaceutical and medicinal cannabis manufacturing industries.
The particulars of what this low-dose CBD will be used to treat are not yet clear, but it may be offered as a relief for pain, nausea, anxiety or sleeping issues.
Australian Pharmacy Guild Tasmanian president John Downing said pharmacists are likely to be cautious about recommending the drug until there is evidence that it is effective as a first-line of treatment.
He added that CBD does not cause any psychoactive effects – a person cannot get high from this CBD – with the CBD made from plant product with less than 1 per cent THC.
“There has been a lot of publicity around medicinal cannabis and people will want to try it, but if it is expensive people won’t buy it, and we have absolutely no idea what they are going to charge for it,” Mr Dowling said.
“It will be used to help treat mild pain, migraines, potentially to help treat nausea, some people might find it has a sedative affect so it could be used as a mild relaxant to help you sleep,” he said.
“But there is not a lot of solid evidence out there about how effective it is … obviously the TGA thinks that some people will benefit from its availability.”
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) state chair Tim Jackson said the medical fraternity were surprised that the changes to CBD had passed, and cautioned people to first speak with their doctor before seeking out CBD.
Dr Jackson said it is not recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for people with mental health issues like depression or schizophrenia.
He said there was some evidence that medicinal cannabis is good for people with chronic pain where traditional remedies have failed, for people with nausea and vomiting particularly when it is associated with cancer treatment, for pain and stiffness associated with multiple sclerosis and for refractory epilepsy, particularly in children.
“We are a little bit surprised that it has been passed…they have decided to go with low dose products and I presume the safety profile is reassuring,” he said.
“My concern is that if it is over the counter at a chemist, whether there is enough rigor in the proscribing.
“People would be looking to use this for chronic conditions…Before they go out and buy it themselves they are better off checking with their GP who knows their past history, who knows their medications. Maybe medicinal cannabis can be part of their management regime but there may be other things they should consider.”