Over-the-counter medicinal cannabis a small step toward better pain management

Painaustralia

Painaustralia has cautiously welcomed the announcement by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to down-schedule cannabidiol (CBD) and enable the availability of low-dose CBD over-the-counter (OTC) in pharmacies.

CEO of Painaustralia, Carol Bennett, said changes that provide more accessible and affordable pain management options are necessary but will not provide people with chronic pain good access to the most effective treatments for their conditions. “While the number of people living with pain in Australia rises, there will still be significant gaps in access to, and understanding of, best practice holistic pain management. With the recent restrictions applied to opioids in Australia making pharmacological pain treatments less accessible, the schedule 3 listing of CBD and ready availability in pharmacies will add another drug to the list of available treatments. The missing piece of the puzzle remains access to multidisciplinary treatment.”

The majority of people who seek medicinal cannabis do so for pain management, and there is growing interest and expectation around the use of these products to treat a range of conditions.

Chronic pain can be debilitating and have adverse effects on work, sleep and relationships. People with chronic pain also commonly experience comorbidities such as depression, sleep disturbance and fatigue.

“The evidence available for pain management demonstrates that pharmacological treatments on their own are not successful for long-term pain management. A holistic approach that incorporates medical, physical and psychological treatments is recommended,” said Ms Bennett.

Currently, the Medicare Benefits Schedule does not support the best-practice treatment model for pain, leading to unnecessary use of hospital-based services and an over-reliance on medications.

“While Painaustralia supports current efforts to enable quicker access to medicinal cannabis where it has been correctly prescribed, we do need larger, systematic changes to ensure people living with chronic pain have the best care possible,” said Ms Bennett.

Painaustralia is advocating for a National Action Plan for pain management to ensure a national and holistic policy framework that supports consumers, health professionals and the wider community.

Chair of Painaustralia’s Consumer Advisory Group, Sr Mary-Lynne Cochrane, said that low-dose CBD provides another option for the pain toolkit: “When it comes to chronic pain, there is a need to expand availability of safe and effective treatments as current treatments are not adequate. It won’t be a silver bullet or suitable for all people experiencing chronic pain but it does expand the range of options that might work for some people,” Sr Cochrane said.

Increasing understanding of pain management is critical, and this should form part of the more ready accessibility of CBD and other medicinal cannabis products.

“Additional steps need to be taken to promote quality use of CBD and all cannabis-derived products given the potential for increased use and greater accessibility”, Ms Bennett concluded.

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