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Australia - Medical Marijuana To Undergo Clinical Trials In Victoria

The General

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The Victorian health minister, David Davis, has announced he will amend the law to allow clinical trials of medical cannabis, days after the opposition leader, Daniel Andrews, announced he would seek to legalise the drug if elected in November. On Sunday, Andrews announced Labor would seek advice from the Victorian Law Reform Commission on the prescription, manufacture and distribution of medical cannabis, though he ruled out legalising recreational use of the drug.

The announcement followed months of campaigning by Victorian families who have been pushing for the drug to be used medically, saying it has successfully treated their chronically ill children when other medicines have not. In July, Davis said the Coalition government had no plans to legalise the drug. But on Thursday the minister announced a panel of clinical and regulatory experts would be appointed to "work through the complex issues of obtaining approval to trial the use of cannabis compounds in treating a range of illnesses and conditions".

The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act would be amended to make it easier to conduct clinical trials involving cannabis and similar highly regulated substances, he said. Consideration would also be given to removing the prohibition on growing narcotic plants for therapeutic purposes, but in the context of approved clinical trials.

"This is the right way forward," Davis said. "Simply declaring something legal doesn't make it safe. Our approach is grounded in the best available scientific evidence." A pharmaceutical-grade cannabis extract, marketed as Sativex and already approved by Australia's drug regulator to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis, would be investigated for treatment of pain in patients with advanced cancer, he said.

But a spokesman for the opposition health minister, Gavin Jennings, said Sativex was not recommended or designed for use by children. "Our announcement addressed the campaign led by families which has been running across who want access to a form of cannabis for their ill children, and that won't be captured under the government's policy," he said. "This announcement by the government will provide no relief for children."

Jennings said the government had been "caught on the back foot" by Labor's announcement. "This is panicked announcement from a government under pressure and out of touch." Davis said the Coalition would also give in-principle support to taking part in the international trial of a drug called Epidiolex, marketed for the treatment of certain chronic childhood epilepsy conditions and not yet approved for marketing in any country.

But Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, says neither policy approach was strong and that reform proposals should be left to medical experts and drug regulators. He said he suspected Davis had rushed through his proposal as a direct response to Andrews and described it as "disappointing".

"It's very limited," he said. "Allowing someone to grow plants for therapeutic purposes is very limiting and doesn't help someone in their 70s or 80s and dying of cancer. "If someone requires morphine for pain relief we don't tell them to grow a poppy plant and distil the opium out of it. So why are we doing it for cannabis?" He also criticised extending the use of Sativex, which is delivered in spray form directly into the mouth. "One of the groups wanting to use cannabis is chemotherapy patients suffering from nausea and vomiting and who are resistant to other treatments," he said.

"If you feel like vomiting, the last thing you want to do is spray something on the inside of your mouth." It was also only approved for treating symptoms in multiple sclerosis patients, he said, which would make doctors reluctant to prescribe it for other conditions. "I would much prefer the premier and leader of the opposition and the health minister and shadow health minister go into a quiet room and sort this issue out with a combined approach," Wodak said. "That doesn't happen often in politics but when it does, the results can be magical."

News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Theguardian.com
Author: Melissa Davey
Contact: Contact Us
Website: Medical marijuana to undergo clinical trials in Victoria | Society | theguardian.com
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