The current Medical Cannabis Access Program (MCAP) in Ireland has a very limited scope. It is a program that allows a very limited number of patients access while the majority of other cannabis-consuming patients are forced to use the illegal market to obtain their medicine.
The only ailments covered by the current MCAP are;
1. Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
2. Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
3. Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.
Currently, over *35.5% of adults in Ireland suffer from chronic pain, according to a study conducted by researchers from the School of Psychology and Centre of Pain Research at NUIG Galway.
This equates to two-in-five people suffering from chronic pain across the country. There is a large number of these patients who rely on opioids or who currently acquire their cannabis medicine via the illegal market. Where there is zero regulation and oversight on the products they are consuming to alleviate their pain.
Adding chronic pain to the MCAP list would facilitate this transition from the illegal market to a new legal market that is regulated with strict manufacturing and processing rules. It would also offer the Irish Government access to potential tax revenue from this fast-growing global sector.
The first step to allowing chronic pain to be added to our Medical Cannabis Access Program is to commence clinical trials to ascertain the benefits of blends and formulations of cannabinoids and their effects on patients with chronic pain.
South Africa had its first ethically-approved cannabis clinical trials that began in Johannesburg with the goal to determine if cannabis can replace opioids for pain management, according to a June 21 press release.
The trial is the brainchild of Dr. Shiksha Gallow, a cannabis clinician, and the principal investigator of the trial. Dr. Gallow is a South African pioneer in the field of international cannabis research
Researchers will observe 1,000 participants who have been taking opioids for pain management for at least three months and are prepared to switch to cannabis as an alternative.
“We are currently recruiting patients, and data-capturing all the questionnaires and feedback from the patients for the live study,” Dr. Gallow said. “It has been fairly slow. However, more options have been introduced in the live study as suggested by the patients in the pilot study. The pilot results of the study were very promising, as it showed 98% of the patients have some sort of pain relief from the cannabis.”
The fact is that some patients may be more suited to cannabinoid solutions for pain relief instead of the current highly addictive opiate option.
In a recent article in High Times, Dr. Peter Grinspoon who is a medical cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School said;
“First of all, I think cannabis is really good for mild to moderate pain,”. “I don’t think it works for severe pain. So, I think it depends a little bit on what the patient’s conditions are and how severe their pain is, and it’s not just a question of being on cannabis and opiates or off cannabis and opiates. Together, they work very well. Synergistically, they co-work on some of the same receptors.”
At the very least the Irish Department of Health should be conducting clinical trials in Ireland to ascertain if there are any benefits of cannabinoids being used for pain relief.