Pot prescriptions possible by end of June

Public Health Ministry now training doctors about uses of cannabis

Marijuana plants bear flowers in a controlled environment inside an enclosed facility of the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation in Pathum Thani. (GPO Photo)

Some state hospitals under the Ministry of Public Health will begin prescribing cannabis-based medicine by the end of June, a department official said on Friday.

Dr Somsak Akhasilp, director-general of the Department of Medical Services, said the ministry was currently training doctors on the use of the drug.

“All our workshops are fully booked, and many include doctors from private hospitals as well,” he told reporters, adding that the ministry planned to hold at least two more training sessions.

The next workshop will be held in June for 250 doctors, dentists and pharmacists. A third will be held in July for staff working in palliative-care units.

Currently, 180 medical personnel have received permits from Food and Drug Administration to prescribe cannabis treatment to patients.

“But I want everyone to keep in mind that cannabis is not a cure for all ailments and definitely not a primary treatment,” Dr Somsak said. “Only patients in four categories are entitled to receive cannabis-based medicines. For other diseases, use is allowed only by permitted research projects,”

According to the ministry, those patients who can receive the drug include sufferers from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and nerve pain, and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

However, Dr Somsak also voiced concern about recent reports of patients having suffered side effects from the medicine.

“Cannabis extract can increase the effects of other medications, resulting in possible overdosing and vomiting as a result,” he cautioned. “We are going to set up a monitoring system for patients who suffer side effects from cannabis-derived drug us.”

In another development, the Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine again postponed a decision whether to approve cannabis oil formulated by Daycha Siripatra, chairman of the Khaokwan Foundation, explaining that the department needs “additional” information.

Mr Daycha is an ardent advocate of liberalising cannabis for medical treatment.

The department on Friday approved 10 more traditional recipes with cannabis from 59 submitted by folk doctors in 22 provinces. Currently, 16 in total have been approved.