NSW Approves Medicinal Cannabis Trial
The trials will focus on how medicinal cannabis can improve poor appetite and appetite-related symptoms, such as nausea in terminally ill adult cancer patients in their final stages of life.
The research team will be led by University of New South Wales’ Chief Investigator Associate Professor Meera Agar.
Given that the research team gains approval of the trial by a Human Research Ethics Committee, the clinical trial will be undertaken in two stages.
The first part will be conducted at the Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital in early 2016 and involve about 30 patients with the goal of discovering whether cannabis can be successfully inhaled as a vapour, what its side effects are and the frequency and size of the ideal dose, with initial results expected by the end of 2016.
The second part will see the trial increase in size by being rolled out to major NSW regional and metropolitan hospitals with a larger number of patients.
What About the Other States and Territories Position?
Queensland and Victoria
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Victoria Premier Dan Andrews have both publicly backed the NSW trials.
Mr Andrews has indicated he would work in partnership with NSW next year to run them, including those targeting children with serious epilepsy, a fundamental need NSW Premier Mike Baird has currently omitted.
The ACT Legislative Assembly is currently considering the Greens’ draft bill to legalise medicinal cannabis, with a report expected to be ready before July 2016.
Tasmania is currently holding its own parliamentary inquiry into legalising medical cannabis, with the report due the beginning of 2016.
While NSW must be commended for green lighting such an important clinical trial, one has to wonder are these trials already going over ground that has already been tried and tested overseas?
Cannabis is allowed for medical use in countries including 36 US states, France, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Chile, the Czech Republic and in Israeli hospitals and nursing homes.
Already medicinal cannabis has been shown to be useful for a wide range of conditions, including muscle spasms caused by epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, Crohns disease and poor appetite caused by HIV.
There is a concern that given the complexity of these trials that medicinal cannabis may yet be still 5 years away from being prescribed.
This is too long a wait for those that need it now.
Troy Langmann, the founder of Tasman Health Cannabinoids, a company that has been trying to secure a research and development license to grow medicinal cannabis in Tasmania and Norfolk Island notes that:
‘We know it’s safe, side effects are minimal and people prefer it over many currently prescribed medications, which in many cases are nowhere near as effective as cannabis”.
While not arguing against prudence and that it is “important to explore the safest and most effective ways we can deliver compassionate care and improve the quality of life,” (as noted by Mr Baird), couldn’t previous overseas research be married into Australian trials to expedite this important medicine into Australia’s health care system?