The final details pertaining to the local Medicinal Cannabis Scheme were announced towards the end of 2019, and since then Kiwi officials have been striving to ensure that research and development licence-holders are well equipped to take the next steps. These include applying for commercial cultivation and manufacturing licences, so that local companies are able to start production.

“Most know about CBD and THC, but cannabis has dozens more compounds which could be harnessed to treat many different conditions.”
Finally launched on April 1st 2020, the scheme is believed to be having a significant impact on the many patients benefiting from the medicinal compound. Moreover, it will expand the country’s economy via exporting opportunities and the multiple industries involved in sales and production, adding to the country’s GDP. The initiative is operating via GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards, which will ensure the quality and consistency of cannabinoid-based medicines. This serves to assure medical practitioners that they are prescribing safe and high quality products.

In the past three years charge pharmacist and co-owner at Ngā Hua Pharmacy in Hamilton, James Yu, has dispensed medicinal cannabis to over 600 patients. “I’ve seen medicinal cannabis very successfully prescribed for the likes of pain, seizure control, anxiety, insomnia, and for rarer conditions. Most know about CBD and THC, but cannabis has dozens more compounds which could be harnessed to treat many different conditions. Science is starting to unleash its vast therapeutic potential,” he says.

Yu is now calling on his colleagues to prepare and educate themselves about the products. “Often, the first point of call for enquiries about medicinal cannabis are pharmacists. That includes from doctors who field questions from their patients and then often ask their community pharmacist. Therefore, it’s critical that pharmacists understand medicinal cannabis, so they can give the appropriate advice. A lack of knowledge, otherwise, will only add a barrier to patients wanting to access medicinal cannabis,” he says.

The MedCan Summit 2021

In October, pharmacists and medical professionals will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge by attending the MedCan Summit 2021. The conference will for the second consecutive year be bringing together industry, healthcare professionals, scientists, government, and patient advocates, with aim of educating and creating fruitful professional networks.

“This year’s focus will be on providing solutions and practical advice on the issues and challenges we’re facing, including exporting, investment, and regulation. We will also examine the latest medical and scientific findings, as well as breakthrough technologies, globally,” says Zahra Champion, Executive Director of BioTechNZ and MedCan Summit 2021 organiser.

A one-day Healthcare Professional Forum will see experts present on the endocannabinoid system, clinical data, the applications and prescribing of medicinal cannabis in medical practice. “We are keen for more GPs to attend given they’re critical to patient access. Further, the educational components of MedCan 2021 have been endorsed by The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand; and endorsement from RNZCGP is currently under submission,” said Champion.

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