Cork GP issues warning about medicinal cannabis debate

Cork GP issues warning about medicinal cannabis debate
Dr Nick Flynn. Picture: Denis Scannell

HOLLYHILL GP Dr Nick Flynn said that the current debate surrounding medicinal cannabis has been based on politics, not medicine.

Dr Flynn said that while cases like that of Ava Twomey, whose mother Vera has led the campaign for greater access are compelling, people have ignored the lack of medical evidence for its efficacy in treating patients.

Having spoken to the HSE, Dr Flynn said that cannabis compound THC-based medicine would be available under the current laws if consultants made a case for it, but as Ava has been unable to get a prescription for it, her mother has campaigned for a change in the law.

Dr Flynn said that there could be issues with broadening the law, and people need to acknowledge the judgement of doctors who are treating patients like Ava.

"The whole debate is missing a medical element," he said.

"Very frequently, patients want things that are not in our gift because we don't think they will be useful.

"It's not a panacea. It's not a cure-all," he added, referring to the claims made about cannabis.

He said that doctors have to educate themselves on potential drugs and treatments, and look to experts for guidance. He pointed to a recent statement from the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI), which stated cannabis compound CBD-based drug Epidiolex was the only drug with any evidence of effectiveness in severe forms of epilepsy, like Dravet's Syndrome, but that there is inadequate research and evidence for the effectiveness of THC-based medicines. The RCPI also warns of the risks of using untested medicines, specifically those with known psycho-active effects like the THC compound, on young people as their brains are still developing.

Mr Flynn said that, from his point of view, it did not seem to be the issue that doctors did not know enough about THC-based medicines or that they couldn't prescribe them due to current laws.

"A doctors, every year in every speciality, we have to make decisions on new products. We have to make a considered decision. I would be surprised if there was a consultant neurologist that, if they felt that this was an effective treatment, that they wouldn't upskill themselves," he said.

Dr Flynn said that widening the laws for access could create other problems. He said that doctors already had issues with patients coming in seeking access to drugs like codeine, an addictive opiate related to heroin, and benzodiazepine, known by the street name benzos, and worried that people would do the same with the "highly addictive" cannabis-based medicines.

"It's one to use with caution," he said.

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