The first official networking and information event on medical cannabis for professionals was held last night, and doctors and pharmacists were left feeling less confident than ever in the new medicine.
Organised by the Medicine’s Authority and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Health, many Maltese doctors and pharmacists attended the event to learn more about prescribing medical cannabis after its legalisation.
However, many attendees were left just as clueless about medical cannabis by the end of the session after authorities sent out mixed messages about prescribing the new medicine, with some doctors even walking out mid-meeting.
“Doctors who attended are now convinced they shouldn’t prescribe the medicine. Pharmacists are afraid to dispense – it wasn’t a very fruitful meeting,” one doctor who attended the event told Lovin Malta.
Another man who attended the event was “shocked” at how the Medicine’s Authority was speaking about cannabis to the doctors.
“I’m furious that this medicine keeps being treated as a taboo by misinformed ‘professionals’,” said the man. “There was no-one there who had patients’ rights and well-being in mind.”
He said the Medicines Authority seemed reluctant to praise medical cannabis.
“The Medicines Authority was selling medicinal cannabis as the ultimate last resort to prescribe to a patient. Seeing the doctors and pharmacists reaction – they where expecting a totally different approach to this meeting. Most of the practitioners there wanted to know and learn more about how to handle this medicine,” he said.
“Many of the pharmacists and few doctors present seemed to have absolutely no idea or knowledge about the subject,” he continued. “They only projected resistance and fear about the unknown because no one has bothered to teach them.”
Medicines Authority chairman Anthony Serracino Inglott spoke of doctors taking “calculated risks” when prescribing the medicine, and that doctors could prescribe the medicine if they wanted to.
If they didn’t feel comfortable prescribing the medicine, they should then refer the patient to another doctor, he said.
When people asked for a course or an educational session on the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis, the Professor said he didn’t want to hold lectures on the subject out of fear that everyone would think they are an expert and being to prescribe medical cannabis irresponsibly.
Parliamentary Secretary Deo Debattista expressed a similar sentiment.
“Thanks to God I’ve spent 20 years as a GP apart from being an MP. No doctor is going to just prescribe cannabis as a first line drug and not even a last line drug,” said the Parliamentary Secretary.
ReLeaf, who also attended the meeting, said the doctors questions and interest showed there was a clear “thirst for education” on medical cannabis – a thirst that was not being quenched by the Medicines Authority.
They urged the authorities to heed the attendees’ questions and concerns and supply them with all the information and support they need as medical cannabis becomes normalised in the Maltese market.
“It is hypocritical and contradictory for the government to pass this law then in the same month say they hope not many doctors prescribe it,” they said.