After making a name for himself as one of the main voices speaking out in favour of the legalisation of medical cannabis, doctor Andrew Agius is now saying that it should be more accessible and affordable.
“Most patients that I’ve seen who suffer from painful conditions and are treated with cannabis are able to start living life again,” he said.
Agius explained that a majority of individuals who suffer from chronic pain are generally subject to debilitating symptoms and are in most cases unable to afford the virtually monopolised pharmaceutical rates of cannabis.
The medicine should therefore be subsidised for chronic pain sufferers who are unable to meet the financial requirements for the acquisition of the medicine, because they too deserve a chance at prosperity, Agius said.
Governmental subsidisation is the case for a lot of medication used to treat chronic conditions.
He added that some medication that is prescribed for chronic pain, anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping are generally ineffective and have intense side effects, yet they are a lot easier to acquire, maintain and afford.
In fact, a woman who was using several prescribed medications for ten years, on the advice of her psychiatrist, saw her mental health and quality of life rapidly deteriorate up until she took her first drop of cannabis oil and her life “instantly changed”.
As it stands, Malta only has two suppliers of medical cannabis and they have been selling the same four products for the past three years. This has led to extremely high prices, especially in comparison to other European countries.
Agius further argued that the legalisation of home-grown cannabis for those who cannot afford the pharmaceutical rates should act as an alternative option through which patients can access the plant.
Home-grown cannabis can also result in subsequent harm reduction for those who use alcohol or cigarettes as stress relief since these are more anatomically dangerous and addictive than cannabis.
Alcohol, for instance, has adverse effects on the digestive system, the liver and the heart, while it provides very few, if not zero anatomical benefits.
Cannabis, on the other hand, can replace deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system which, unbeknownst to most, can be the cause of chronic widespread pain.
And this begs the question; why is it still so hard to access?
Maleducation, misinformation and stigmatisation. These are the three pillars that are preventing progress in this scientific field.
Agius explained that those who consider the plant to be dangerous need to “self-educate”, especially doctors who don’t believe in cannabis’ medical benefits.
In fact, research into cannabis and the endocannabinoid system led to the discovery and diagnosis of fibromyalgia, an illness once thought to be “all in the mind”.
Fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, trouble sleeping and other chronic illnesses are thought to be the result of a deficiency in the endocannabinoid levels, akin to the way neurotransmitter deficiencies are behind other illnesses – like the lack of serotonin in depression.
Therefore, replacing the deficiency with the appropriate cannabis formula can relieve most, if not all, of the debilitating symptoms with very few side effects.
Many are also unaware of the different strains of cannabis, many of which have low THC levels; the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and thus the biggest pot-stirrer in this unfounded controversy.
Agius concluded by explaining that the tight restrictions have made it difficult for patients to maintain their prescription and for companies to import new products.
However, he remains hopeful that within the next few months, the island will gain access to more products.
Do you think medical cannabis should be made cheaper?