The key words of Peter Dunne’s speech at Vienna to do with medicinal cannabis are as follows:
“I have asked my officials in New Zealand’s Ministry of Health to look into the evidence and efficacy for cannabis as a medicinal or therapeutic relief.
The evidence, however, has been underwhelming.”
It is anyone’s guess what the evidence was and two OIA Requests have been placed to find out.
That it was “underwhelming” immediately assures me that the evidence from the MoH was scant, possibly outdated and confined to the New Zealand statistics to do with Sativex, since this is the only lawful means to assess its medicinal and therapeutic benefits in practice in NZ. I suspect the MoH did not look very hard in to the international studies and clinical trials going on.
Sativex, a Medsafe approved drug , may be prescribed for the following indications:
muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis
nausea, anorexia and wasting (cachexia) associated to cancer and AIDS;
chronic pain (including cancer pain) for which other pain relief treatments are ineffective or have significant/severe adverse side-effects;
neuropathic pain (associated with conditions including multiple-sclerosis, stroke, cancer, spinal cord injury, severe physical trauma, and peripheral neuropathy resulting from diabetes);
muscle spasm and spasticity associated with spinal cord injury.
In other words this one drug is approved and available to treat all of the above symptoms.
The number of medical conditions that include one or more of those symptoms is a very large group and I am seeking statistics on the numbers of people affected by one or more of these symptoms in NZ.
In addition to the above symptoms, we also know that it has been prescribed for at least one child with epilepsy who has had outstanding success.
Every Application for Sativex has been granted.
Few can afford it.
Those who have been able to afford it, have benefited.
The evidence may be slight in NZ if the MoH are looking for numbers only because of the condition attached to Sativex:
that every other standard treatment has been tried and has had no therapeutic effect.
Since Sativex has been around only since 2008 and approved in NZ only since 2010, it takes quite a while to get through all the other standard treatments. Usually at the cost of the patient.
Our GreenCross patient who has successfully trialled Sativex, went through his standard treatments fairly quickly, relatively speaking; and that took nearly three years. With CRPS, although the standard treatments are considered to be those for any sort of neuropathic pain, there are not really any effective standard treatments for CRPS; it’s said to be one of the most misunderstood diseases. It took over one year after his accident before CRPS was even diagnosed. The GreenCross patient is smart and did his research. He knew that the opiate medications had dangerous side effects if taken for too long and, being from Canada, he tried cannabis during a visit home, as his Specialist had said to him that cannabis was effective and had put Sativex in to his treatment plan. The standard treatments (14 in all) were obviously not helping his pain and causing him much grief (mental and physical).
The MoH rang him to ask about the therapeutic effects when they discovered his prescription for Sativex had been fulfilled. He waxed lyrical. He was sleeping through the night for the first time in three years. He had no nightmares. His vomiting 3-4 times per day ceased. He had no nausea. He had gained his appetite (he had lost about 30 kg in three years.) He was able to come off all his medications. He could move more easily. He could do things. His mood had significantly improved. He had lost his suicidal ideation.
The MoH rang another GreenCross patient about his Sativex use also. He told them it had completely halted his muscle spasms, had reduced the pain and got him off his opiate medication completely.
The evidence may be “underwhelming” in numbers in NZ due to the condition attached to Sativex making it difficult to prescribe and the cost further reducing the numbers of people able to use this medicine; but it is certainly overwhelming in its efficacy. There can be no doubt about that.
Note that Peter Dunne asked his advisers to report on the evidence and efficacy of medicinal cannabis. He says the evidence is underwhelming. He does not say the efficacy of it is underwhelming.
I suspect that this speech was carefully written to protect the government’s fixed negative position on cannabis but opens the possibility of decriminalisation. Although decriminalisation should be welcomed and encouraged, the government does not do its citizens any favours to keep this medicine from them and to deny the choice and use of this very safe medicine for the treatment and good health of its citizens.