By Emily Ledger
A recent survey – the first of its kind – has revealed that almost three-quarters of GPs in the UK would be open-minded about prescribing medical cannabis products.
The survey was carried out by the Primary Care Cannabis Network with the results published on Monday 12th July. There were over 1000 respondents who represented around 2.9% of the total UK GP workforce.
When asked if they would support moves to allow trained, specialist GPs facilitating prescriptions for eligible patients, 39% of respondents answered “yes”, 34% said that they were unsure, and only 26% were against the idea.
Further, almost a quarter of responding GPs stated that they would be willing to prescribe and oversee cannabis treatments themselves.
Over half revealing their belief that medical cannabis could offer benefits to patients for whom other therapies had been unsuccessful.
Other insights include just under a quarter of GPs reporting their belief that cannabis-based treatment can offer multi-symptom management and reduced dependency on other medications such as opioids. Thirteen per cent also believe that it can offer a more patient-led personalised treatment option.
Interestingly, the survey revealed that a third (33%) of responding GPs are asked about medical cannabis by their patients at least every six months.
Despite the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK back in 2018, access to the medicines remains extremely limited, with the vast majority of prescriptions being carried out through the private sector.
For many, the costs associated with medical cannabis prescriptions is still a major hurdle. Modest estimations suggest that there could be 1.4 million people in the UK who are currently self-medicating with illicit cannabis products. However, the real number is likely much higher.
This has led to increased calls for better access to medical cannabis treatment in the UK, with many advocated believing that GPs could play a significant role in the expansion of the treatment in the primary care setting.
GPs who participated in the survey were also asked for which conditions would they support a trial of medical cannabis products for a number of conditions.
Fourty-six per cent revealed that they would support a trial for spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS); 42% for palliative care; 42% for intractable epilepsy; 42% for chronic cancer pain; 29% for chemo-induced nausea and vomiting.
The survey revealed that 26% of respondents would not support the trial of medical cannabis in any of the conditions. According to the free text comments in the survey, this was largely down to a lack of knowledge.
For example, participants wrote “I don’t know enough to support use”; “I don’t know enough about it to comment”; and “I have no knowledge on the use of cannabis medicines”.
Primary Care Cannabis Network is the only organisation to exist in the UK specifically designed for GPs interested in learning about cannabis-based medicines and how they may be used to serve the needs of their patients.