Survey: French Doctors Open to Offering Marijuana as Medication

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A majority of French physicians now appears to align with public opinion that favors allowing dispensing medical marijuana by prescription.

A health professionals’ website conducted an online survey in July and August 2018  that revealed a shift in opinion. The survey in Medicine International Journal of 699 respondents found that 56 percent approved of medical cannabis being available by prescription, while  38 percent opposed, and 5 percent had no opinion.

Most respondents recognized that there is a lack of data on the effects of cannabis on specific illnesses, but considered it effective to fight pain.

French health professionals are rarely questioned about their view on medical cannabis. The general point of view in France supports allowing treatments that can help patients, yet cannabis struggles for acceptance. Some professionals, such as addiction treatment specialists, are largely in favor of regulating cannabis, but psychologists call for a stricter prohibition and warn of cannabis abuse.

Nicolas Authier, a psychiatrist who specializes in addictology, or the study of and treatment for addiction, offers a solution to the debate. Authier, who also is President of the Narcotics Department of the National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM), suggested creating a patient registry and a legal system to accompany the research and the legal prescription of medical cannabis.

“Doctors and patients would be registered on this register, led by a research team attached to Inserm [a French institute for health and medical research].The patient would then benefit from controlled delivery of standardized cannabis extracts, from production and distribution that is controlled by a state monopoly,” he said.

Authier suggested coordinating health professionals, patient associations, and authorities.

“Patients with chronic and severe diseases, refractory [resistant to accept treatments]to available drugs could thus move from a practice of self-medication with an illicit substance to a legal framework, medical and secure,” he said.

Very recently, the ANSM announced the creation of a special scientific committee dedicated to evaluating whether  medical cannabis should be offered by prescription. The names of the members of the committee haven’t been released, but the first meeting is planned for early October 2018.The committee has been instructed to analyze available the scientific data, patients’ points of view, and international research. Medical cannabis was legalized in 2013 in France but no cannabis-based drug is available. Only Sativex has received a market authorization, but has not reached shelves as regulators and the distributor continue negotiations over prices.

Updated 4:42 pm September 21, 2018.

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