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domingo, 19 de enero 2020
19/01/2020
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Training in medical cannabis gets green light

By Juliana Madrigal and Pedro Amariles, UdeA Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences
Translation by José López

Cannabis sativa buds have a large number of elements for medicinal use. Photograph: Get Budding / www.unsplash.com / Free use image

The Law 1787 of 2016, has given the green light for the cultivation of medical cannabis in Colombia, and therefore for the production of cannabis-based extracts and medicines. Consequently, a number of large and medium-sized companies are in search of scientific, legal and technological methods that allow them to enter this business.

Likewise, multinational companies in Canada, the United States and Europe are investing heavily in Colombia in order to standardize the cultivation as well as the extraction and production of cannabis-based medicines, and boost research and development in this field.

Globally, the legalization and regulation of marijuana for therapeutic purposes has resulted in the development of futher research on the properties of cannabis in the control of diseases such as cancer, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic pain, refractory epilepsy, among other health problems.

Some Colombian companies have been granted license for the cultivation and production of medical cannabis extracts resulting in both patients and health professionals having broader perspective on the therapeutic use of cannabis-based products.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to design and develop strategies to provide health professionals with effective training based on the best available scientific evidence and facilitate access and proper use of this therapeutic aid. Further evidence regarding clinical, economic and humanistic results of the use of medical cannabis in Colombia is also necessary.

Concerns on cannabis use

On March 12, 2019, the Colombian Medical Association and Aphria Inc. - a Canadian cannabis company - signed an “exclusivity agreement” to develop the first medical cannabis training and research program in Colombia.

Although this announcement is quite positive due to the need for effective training in a new and changing field, while promoting the use of prescriptions based on medical cannabis, it could also raise some concerns in this regard.

One of them is related to the role of the producing companies, since in the case of Colombia, the production of cannabis-based products is generally associated with ethical questions regarding possible commercial interests of the cannabis companies.

Another concern relates to the fact that this program is exclusively aimed at doctors and, therefore, excludes other health professionals that are essential for effective patient care, such as pharmaceutical professionals. For example, pharmaceutical chemists play a key role in the treatment of patients, and therefore, promoting the proper use of medications, requires updating and robust training on this topic.

Thus, in addition to the process of production and quality control of pharmaceutical extracts and preparations, training should be focused on issues such as administration; monitoring of the treatment effectiveness; prevention and control of adverse effects; interactions and contraindications; use in children, pregnant women, infants and the elderly; and patient education. Likewise, it should be aimed at promoting multidisciplinary research so that new evidence on the health benefits of cannabis-based therapies can be obtained.

In this regard, the Canadian Pharmacists Association – CphA - is currently developing a series of theoretical and practical courses on medical cannabis, aimed at strengthening the pharmacist's knowledge so that they can provide information and clinical advice to patients on safe management and administration of medical cannabis.

Also, the Ontario College of Pharmacists – OCP – has developed the Cannabis Strategy for Pharmacy, which is focused on four main topics in order to properly address cannabis-related problems and provide care and protection to patients in the best possible way.

* Juliana Madrigal is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Pharmacy and Food Sciences.
* Pedro Amariles serves as Associate Professor and Vice-Chancellor for Extension at the University of Antioquia.

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