Paola Cubillos, a Colombian-Canadian doctor who studies and consults on medical cannabis said that it has potential, but current evidence doesn’t back the hype, POLITICO reports. The lack of evidence on medical cannabis’ effectiveness — especially in the face of patients’ increasingly assertive pushes for access — causes a dilemma for governments looking to make the substance available for medical purposes.
“There are those promoting this as the God-given [substance] that will solve all the problems in the world,” Cubillos said.
Drug companies like Tilray are boasting about new treatments with cannabis. Patients around Europe view it as a miracle drug curing ailments from depression to oncological pain. But for many doctors, cannabis has work to do if it wants to be taken seriously.
The report adds that certain countries are applying caution. It refers to France acting cautious.
“Its National Assembly just approved a medical cannabis experiment, set to run for two years, that would make cannabis available to roughly 3,000 patients with certain types of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. This plan was adopted against the backdrop of a long-standing, hard-line approach against medical cannabis in the country, which is also shared across most of the EU. The U.K., for example, made medical cannabis legal last year to great fanfare, but strict guidelines say doctors should prescribe cannabis-based medicines only when all other treatments have failed. Portugal, meanwhile, has embraced the cultivation of medical cannabis but makes only one kind of cannabis-based medicine available”, Politico’s report adds.
“In July, the European Medicines Agency gave the green light to only one cannabis-based medicine, GW Pharma’s Epidiolex, for two kinds of seizures. However, the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said just a month later that it cannot be reimbursed because it lacks enough clinical trial evidence.”
Clinical trials, specifically randomized control trials, could provide clarity on health effects, but there are too few. One reason is that the wave of medical cannabis legalization around the world is a very recent trend; in the U.S., one of the countries now leading medical cannabis research, it was legalized in the majority of states only three years ago. It’s still a prohibited substance at the federal level.
Until there’s more information, say doctors, countries should be cautious about the way they roll out medical cannabis programs — and how medical cannabis is prescribed.