“Doctors are increasingly engaged about medicinal cannabis. They’re receiving a lot more enquiries from patients and so they’re keen to learn more about prescribing it,” says Don Budge of MCinfo - a dedicated and comprehensive medicinal cannabis information service built and run by DATAPHARM.
His comments follow MCinfo having a stand at GP CME North (General Practice and Medical Conference Exhibition) - held from 9 to 12 June in Rotorua.
“We got a lot more approaches from delegates this year, which was really heartening. GPs’ interest is partly patient driven as Kiwis wake up to the fact New Zealand CBD products have been available for nine months, and in many cases, are nowhere near as expensive,” says Mr Budge.
After attracting more registrations at GP CME, MCinfo.com now reports that over 1,700 New Zealand doctors and pharmacists have now registered, with registration free for them.
Every New Zealand doctor can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for any health condition, with many Kiwi patients opting for local products.
Mr Budge says it’s frustrating that some media stories continue to perpetuate the myth that Kiwi-made products remain elusive when they’re in fact readily available nationwide, with prescriptions steadily climbing.
Official information, recently released by the Ministry of Health, confirms overall monthly growth in the number of medicinal cannabis packs supplied since the start of last year.
From January 2021 to March 2022, the number of packs of products containing cannabidiol (CBD) rose from 1891 to 2618. The same period also saw the number of packs of products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) increased from 26 to 373. While the number of packs containing both CBD and THC rose from 136 to 1075.
Upon releasing the data, the Ministry of Health noted that the number of packs supplied cannot be used to determine the number of prescriptions or the number of patients. Further, Sativex has consent for distribution as a medicine, and so the supply of Sativex were not included in their figures.
“These are not huge numbers but there’s a definite upward trend when you consider the total of medicinal cannabis packs supplied each month has doubled from just over 2,000 in January last year to just over 4,000 in March this year. No wonder GPs and pharmacists are wanting to upskill themselves as more Kiwis are asking questions and pressing for natural, plant-based solutions,” says Don Budge.
Education sponsor of MCinfo is Helius Therapeutics - New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company. It’s delighted the supply of medicinal cannabis for New Zealand patients is on the rise but says improving prescriber knowledge remains key to securing better access for patients.
“GP CME is always a good indicator as to where doctors are at. It’s great to see they’re increasingly curious and are educating themselves about the efficacy, safety, and prescription of medicinal cannabis. New Zealand’s 3,500-plus practising pharmacists are also keen to give patients the appropriate advice,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.
She says the provision of a single trusted source of information with real-time access to ongoing global medicinal cannabis developments is critical for New Zealand given its Medicinal Cannabis Scheme only took effect in April 2020.
“New Zealand-made products are doing well domestically, but what will prove even more popular are New Zealand-grown and made products.
That’s what Helius are now working on and will soon bring to market. Overseas patients will also be attracted to ‘100% Pure’ Kiwi products, with Helius set to export this year,” says Ms Doran.
While only MCinfo-registered doctors and pharmacists can access the prescribers’ portal, anyone can access MCinfo’s up-to-the-minute information on the use, potential benefits and risks of CBD, THC, and other medicinal cannabinoid products. As well as proving virtual resources, MCinfo also has Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) visiting doctors.
“The interest in medicinal cannabis from healthcare professionals is up. Interest from patients is up, as are the number of packs being supplied into the New Zealand market. However, there’s more work to do. We’re calling on other GPs and pharmacists to register on MCinfo and get ahead of this exciting new frontier of healthcare,” says Don Budge.