Queensland needs to act cautiously when it comes to trialling medicinal cannabis, says the Australian Medical Association.
The warning comes as severely epileptic children have been identified as the intended beneficiaries of the state’s first trial of the drug, which is expected to go ahead at Brisbane’s new children’s hospital next year.
AMA Queensland president Dr Chris Zappala says he sympathises with parents and welcomes the trial but stresses there needs to be greater understanding of how medicinal cannabis would be used, as well as the potential risks.
‘I sympathise with their frustration,’ he said. ’I can just imagine they’ve tried many, many different things and they’ve not worked and obviously there’s an element of desperation.
‘The problem we have though is that if we’re going to recommend … to a patient a treatment, we need to be sure we’re aware of what the patient harms are and that the risk-benefit is in the patients’s favour.’
Dr Zappala says more research needs to be carried out, especially around appropriate dosage and what illnesses or symptoms the drug could be used to treat.
‘We can’t assume that single anecdotal instances of possible benefit are going to translate to a complete benefit for anyone who might try this,’ he said.
‘I think that with these types of things it’s important we proceed cautiously and carefully and that means appropriately conducting the trials and putting the appropriate safe guards in place.’
His comments come after Health Minister Dick Cameron tabled a letter in state parliament detailing Queensland’s plans to join an interstate clinical trial of cannabis-derived medicine to treat children with severe, drug resistant epilepsy.
‘This would be an important step in promoting further use of medicinal cannabis in Queensland,’ he wrote.
Mr Dick said the trial is set to be carried out at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital next year.