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Danish medicinal cannabis scheme likely to struggle, doctors reluctant to prescribe: report

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Danish medicinal cannabis scheme likely to struggle, doctors reluctant to prescribe: report
Photo: VictoriaBee/Depositphotos
18:04 CET+01:00
Very few doctors in Denmark are willing to prescribe medicinal cannabis oil under a new trial scheme, according to a report.

From January 1st 2018, Denmark's Ministry of Health will allow selected patient groups to be prescribed cannabis oil by their general practitioners as part of a four-year trial.

But very few doctors are actually willing to prescribe the oil, according to broadcaster DR, which spoke to every regional chairperson with Denmark's Association for General Practitioners (Praktiserende Lægers Organisation) about the issue.

Doctors are reticent to prescribe medicine that lacks studies proving its effectiveness and side effects, reports DR.

Lise Høyer, chairperson with the Central Jutland branch of the organisation, told the broadcaster that she would not prescribe the treatment.

“When I write a prescription I am responsible for all effects and side effects, and how it effects other medicines being taken. I don't have that knowledge [with the prescription of cannabis oil],” Høyer said.

A second regional chairperson with the organisation, North Jutland's Annemette Knudsen Alstrup, echoed those sentiments.

“There will, to the best of my knowledge, be extremely few GPs who dare take the responsibility of prescribing medicinal cannabis,” she said to DR.

READ ALSO: 'Blame for tragic case should not be individualised': nurses join Denmark doctors' campaign

With so few doctors willing to write a prescription for the treatment, the trial scheme risks collapsing, according to the report.

“This trial scheme looks like a scheme which has political support but makes no professional sense. Furthermore, it risks creating a false sense of hope for many patients, since they will not be able to be prescribed medicinal cannabis in many places,” Alstrup said.

Bent Hansen, chairperson with overarching health authority Danske Regioner, told DR that he could also understand why doctors were not keen to take part in the trial scheme.

GPs can easily be blamed if treatments prescribed by them result in unforeseen side effects, Hansen said.

“If [doctors] feel that they are not well enough informed then state authorities must ensure a better and stronger basis [for the treatment]. A parliamentary majority supported the trial,” he said.

Dorthe Heilskov, a former nurse who suffers with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, said that cannabis oil has a “fantastic” effect on extreme pain brought on in her fingers, elbows and shoulders by the diseases.

“I can now sleep at night and have managed without ordinary arthritis medicine since August 13th,” Heilskov told DR.

“I have a lot of problems with allergies with normal arthritis medicine and am also allergic to normal painkillers. I can't make my life function without cannabis oil,” she added. 

READ ALSO: The Local speaks to Copenhagen doctor who prescribes medicinal cannabis

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