The Medicines Authority has licensed a synthetic form of a hemp-based oil used to treat chronic pain, but has continued to block its natural version.
Andrew Agius, a family doctor who runs the Pain Clinic in Paola, was informed by the Medicines Authority yesterday that it had agreed to license a synthetic form of CBD oil – a herbal remedy containing cannabidiol (CBD), one of two main active ingredients derived from cannabis.
Yet patients can only obtain this synthetic oil legally from the Lantern Pharmacy in Santa Venera and must first be prescribed it by a specific oncologist – namely Nick Refalo, a failed PN candidate in the last general election.
It will also cost a pretty penny – 20ml of the oil that is 5% synthetic CBD will cost €700, while the same volume of the oil that is 10% synthetic CBD will cost €1,500.
Andrew Agius, who is leading the charge on the Maltese medical front for the legalisation of natural CBD oil, told Lovin Malta the synthetic oil is not as effective as the natural version.
“Scientific evidence shows natural CBD oil is more effective because it has strains of THC (the second, and the psychoactive, active ingredient derived from cannabis) and the two ingredients have a synergistic effect,” he said. “The synthetic version does not include THC.”
Moreover, the synthetic oil is also around ten times more expensive than the natural version – 20ml of 5% natural CBD oil costs around €50 while 20ml of 10% CBD oil costs around €80.
The Medicines Authority’s decision makes synthetic CBD oil the second type of medical marijuana that can be prescribed since the 2015 reform of Malta’s drug laws legalising the use of medical cannabis as a last resort for chronic pain sufferers.
The mouth-spray Sativex – which costs around €500 per 10ml – had already been licensed but not a single pharmacy in the country had agreed to import it.
Agius recently told MaltaToday he had started using natural CBD oil on his patients and it had worked wonders on them, with many of them replacing their daily cocktails of pills with a few daily drops of the oil.
However, he had to stop this treatment after the Superintendence of Public Health warned him the oil was illegal by virtue of an old law bannng all products containing hemp.