A year ago, and in the teeth of opposition from some doctors, the Danish health authorities decided to approve a four-year pilot project under which GPs were able to give patients medicinal cannabis as pain relief for certain ailments.
At that time, it was estimated that around 500 people would request the drug. However, figures reveal that almost three times as many – 1,400 patients – have done so over the first year, reports DR Nyheder.
So far, so good
The health minister, Ellen Trane Nørby, sees the figures as encouraging.
“It shows that the pilot project is really well underway. There are a lot more people than expected, so we’ve had a really good first year and also obtained new knowledge for the benefit of patients,” said the minister.
Competence rather than quantity
However, the Danish College of General Practitioners has been sceptical from the start, and the new figures do nothing to dispel its reservations.
The chair of the organisation, Anders Beich, believes that not all doctors have the requisite knowledge to prescribe cannabis and that most GPs have too few patients on the drug to assess the effects of the treatment.
“I feel that the criterion for success has been wrongly chosen when all we are doing is looking at how many people are receiving the treatment. The important thing is that you are treated by people with the right competencies, experience and framework with the best possible drugs at the right time,” said Beich.
Too early to draw conclusions
The minister countered by saying that a number of research projects are running concurrently to study which patients are deriving benefit from the treatment.
She also added that it was still too early to draw any final conclusions, so the project ought to be allowed to continue for the full four years.
A number of patients at present not covered by the criteria for receiving cannabis, and who might be buying it on the black market, might be eligible for it if the results of the trials show that medicinal cannabis would benefit them.