Earlier today, Malta’s Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Dr Chris Fearne, spoke at the first Medical Cannabis Summit in Malta.
In a very positive presentation, Dr Fearne outlined the evolution of legislation in Malta for medical cannabis, which is only a few years old, and then explained what he felt were the main challenges the sector faced. He suggested three main challenges to be overcome:
Firstly, he believes that patient expectation is very out of line with the current reality. He explained that he has had his own patients call him and ask to be given medical cannabis to “cure cancer”, which there is no current evidence of it doing. His actual words were, “they are expecting miracles”, which just shows how few people currently have good information about the potential health benefits of medical cannabis and CBD – there are many, but it is not currently a cure for cancer.
Included in this area is patient safety. The idea that patients can be more involved in understanding their condition appeals to everyone, but if the result of that is that people are demanding to use treatments that are not proven to work, the possibility of causing harm – even accidentally – rises substantially.
Secondly, he believes that there is a significant lack of knowledge and trust currently amongst Drs. As Dr Fearne explained, Drs have been trained to look at evidence and make decisions based on rigorous trials. As cannabis has existed outside of mainstream society for so long, there are currently very few completed trials that prove the efficacy of CBD or medical cannabis. He wants that to change, which of course requires much more research to be completed. With that evidence, many more Drs can be educated that there may be pain relief alternatives to opioids available for many people.
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Thirdly, he explained that the government is very worried about the numbers of fake or counterfeit products being sold online. These products are able to make amazing claims of wonderful results, but few are backed up by science and testing. He believes that the sector needs laws and regulations in Malta and that those regulations need to be enforced. This is, once again, about patient safety.
All in all, Dr Fearne was very positive about the potential for the sector in Malta and that the government is committed to seeing it grow. The Maltese government is committed to legislation, regulation and enforcement. However, he warned that the medical industry will need to play it’s part if these opportunities are to be realised.