Medical authorities in North America may want to take note of a new hotline in New South Wales, which gives doctors the information they need to confidently prescribe medical cannabis to their patients.
As of January, NSW prescribers will be able to call the hotline and connect with experts who are armed with the latest in international, evidence-based cannabis research. These experts will help physicians determine whether a patient might benefit from cannabis, as well as help inform their treatment decisions.
"NSW has led the country in its approach to medicinal cannabis. However, doctors want more support about whether to prescribe medicinal cannabis, what specific product to prescribe and how best to prescribe it," Hazzard said in a statement.
A senior doctor and two clinical pharmacists will head the $6 million service from Hunter New England Health. It will be made available to doctors across the state from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Medical marijuana is legal in Australia, but many products remain unapproved by the country’s medicine watchdog, the Therapeutics Goods Administration. Substances are only legally available through clinical trials or with special approval by the commonwealth and state governments.
The hotline is meant to help doctors navigate these challenges and complete the necessary regulatory paperwork.
"The whole aim of this service is to make it easier for doctors to access medicinal cannabis for their patients," said NSW Health Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant.
"This service will cut out a lot of the work for clinicians and link them with the best available evidence.”
Chant encouraged all doctors with patients who may benefit from medical cannabis to take advantage of the service.
"It's important that all members of a clinical team understand the medication a patient is on and is vigilant about monitoring for adverse events as well as effectiveness," she said.
The service will be available for the next three years as part of the NSW government’s $21 million investment for investigating medical marijuana’s therapeutic potential.
It's safe to say such a service could be hugely impactful in North America, where many patients struggle to access medical marijuana because they can't find doctors who feel comfortable making the recommendation.
A recent study published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that nine out of 10 medical residents and fellows across the U.S. felt unprepared to prescribe medical marijuana. A staggering 85 percent said they hadn't received any information about medical marijuana throughout their education.