Weed prescriptions to start next month
The country's first batch of legal medical marijuana will be prescribed to registered patients starting from next month, according to Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, the public health minister.
The first 10,000 bottles of marijuana oil extract will be produced by the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation and another 5,000 by Chaopraya Abhaiphubejhr Hospital, he said.
In addition, Phra Achan Fan Acharo Hospital will produce five formulas of Thai traditional medicines using marijuana confiscated by the police in drug crackdowns, he said.
There are about 400 medical doctors, pharmacists and dentists, as well as 2,900 Thai traditional medical practitioners, authorised by the Ministry of Public Health to prescribe the medicines to patients, he said.
These authorised practitioners have been trained by the ministry on how to use marijuana-based medicines.
Even so, they still need to report and consult with officials at the Special Access Scheme (SAS), the state body overseeing medical cannabis use, before prescribing to patients.
The SAS will record the outcomes, keep track of side effects, and monitor vulnerable patients, including those with Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and final-stage cancer patients.
In the first phase, from this month until September, medical cannabis will be distributed to patients through at least one medical-centre hospital or general hospital in each province, according to Dr Piyasakol.
And in the next phase, community hospitals in all districts and the so-called health promotion hospital in every tambon will be given medical marijuana to prescribe to patients.
"This is only the beginning of using marijuana for medical purposes, so the volume of medical cannabis may still be limited," said Dr Piyasakol.
Currently, the ministry is developing guidelines for the treatment of patients who develop side effects from using medical cannabis to treat their illnesses, said Dr Piyasakol.
In terms of service and access, the ministry is also adopting an online training scheme to make it easier for practitioners to earn the certification required to prescribe medical cannabis, he said.