Rural doctors are warning they are unprepared to prescribe medicinal cannabis, despite patients requesting access to the controversial drug.

Victoria became the first state in Australia to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, with the first access given to children with serious epilepsy.

The State Government passed legislation in April to allow the supply, manufacture and access to medicinal cannabis products.

In response, Rural Doctors Association of Australia has called for more to be done to prepare general practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

RDAA president Dr Ewen McPhee said there has been confusion about what the regulations means for doctors.

"Let's understand what this drug can and can't do."

Rural doctors report patients doctor shopping to get access

GPs in regional Victoria are already reporting an increase in the number of people requesting access to medicinal cannabis.

Dr David Monash from Sale, south-east of Melbourne, said people are shopping around doctors trying to find someone who will prescribe the drug.

"I've already had requests and I believe every doctor would have had polite inquiries as to whether its available and whether they can provide it," Dr Monash said.

"At this point in time most of us wouldn't be prepared, or have the knowledge, to fight a three or four month regulation system to get a drug.

"If I have a patient and they fit one of the categories, and they actually need it, you really need to send them to one of the people doing the trials.

"The governments have approved it, the politicians have approved it, but when you actually go to the PBS and the regulator and say what you're going to use it for, you need evidence to say it's going to work and unfortunately ... that evidence is very hard to find.

"If I prescribe something as a doctor then I'm responsible for what I give you and with cannabis we know there is an enormous list of side effects which is what has kept it illegal all these years."

Confusion surrounding cannabis regulation

Medicinal cannabis and its implications for rural doctors will be a key focus of the RDAA's annual conference in Melbourne next month.

Dr McPhee said country GPs are at a disadvantage compared to practitioners in metropolitan areas because they do not have as easy access to specialists.

"GPs in the country have to be a jack-of-all-trades. Not only do they have to be their GP they have to be their specialist as well," he said.

"So [rural] doctors have a higher level of responsibility and a higher level of required knowledge to be able to prescribe and manage these things.

"We just don't have the pain clinics and the specialists and the addiction medicine specialists that you just take for granted in city centers."

"We hope to provide doctors with the tools and information they need to give accurate advice and ensure their practice remains compliant with any relevant legislation."



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Full Article: Medicinal cannabis prescription without adequate support raising concern among rural doctors - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
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