Anutin rolls out cannabis prescriptions
Medical use to get green light this week
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is set to enable hospitals to prescribe marijuana to patients in a move to make the alternative medicine more publicly available.
"This week I will sign an order to allow ministry-run hospitals to prescribe the [marijuana] oil extracts," Mr Anutin said as he unveiled his plans on public health care at the Bangkok Post Forum on Monday.
Mr Anutin also holds the position of deputy prime minister.
The minister vowed to push ahead with his cannabis policies and hospital service upgrade as he joined fellow ministers on stage to share their visions during the "Roadmap to Success: Up Close with Thailand's New Ministers" event.
It is now clear that cannabis has medical potential, Mr Anutin said, referring to an increasingly large body of research into medicinal use cases for the plant.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the active compounds that appear to offer therapeutic avenues.
THC is a muscle relaxant with anti-emetic properties, although in higher doses it can cause drowsiness and intoxication.
CBD has less psychoactive properties and can be used to treat epilepsy, among other conditions.
The green light for the medical use of cannabis in hospitals came after the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) announced last Saturday it would hand 6,500 bottles of marijuana oil extract to the minister tomorrow.
The GPO-made oil will be eventually sent to the Department of Medical Services which will, in turn, distribute it to registered patients.
There are 4,500 bottles of THC-concentrated formula, 500 bottles of CBD-concentrated formula, and another 1,500 with a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC.
Department chief Somsak Akkslip said earlier that patients in the final stage of cancer are expected to be among the first to receive the CBD-THC formula later this month as part of research being conducted by the National Cancer Institute.
On Monday, Mr Anutin also said his ministry is going ahead with plans to give faster services to patients at hospitals.
"One key public health care goal is to achieve the most convenience for patients," he told the forum.
His ministry is trying to relieve overcrowding in hospitals by adopting queue-management technology and upgrading public health stations, which serve as clinics, to small-scale tambon health promotion hospitals to give patients primary care.
"We are aiming to balance outpatient numbers," Mr Anutin said, adding more than 8,000 public health stations have already become tambon health promotion hospitals.
Mr Anutin also said ministry-owned hospitals will also introduce online appointments and a new system to allow patients to collect their prescriptions at pharmacies near their homes.