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deliberations have taken shape.
However, little has been mentioned in
the public arena about pharmacists'
views regarding the issue, including
their needs and requirements for
the rollout of medicinal cannabis
As healthcare professionals whose
main role and responsibility is the
supply, safekeeping and monitoring of
medicines, pharmacists' perspectives
need to be heard in this contemporary
debate. It is important that the
views of the thousands of Australian
pharmacists, their concerns, perceived
barriers and supporting needs are
explored and addressed prior to
implementation. This is not only to
sustain multidisciplinary collaboration
amongst healthcare professionals
but also to help influence policy and
instigate legislative change to ensure
that medicinal cannabis is introduced
and implemented into the healthcare
system successfully the first time round.
To shed some light on the perspectives
of pharmacists on this topic, researchers
at the University of Sydney recently
conducted a study exploring the
views of registered pharmacists from
Australia, predominantly NSW, about the
legalisation of medicinal cannabis.
Findings of the study indicated that the
majority of pharmacists were in support
of and encouraged the introduction and
decriminalisation of a standardised form
of medicinal cannabis. However in terms
of legislation several questions were
raised, such as:
• What protocols will be set in place?
• Will it be a nationalised approach?
• Are the rights and responsibilities
of both the prescriber supplier and
consumer clearly defined?
The most significant suggestions put
forward were that legislation should be
nationalised and that clear protocols
should be in place, with a Schedule 8
classification regarded as most effective.
This was balanced by some participants
acknowledging that a Schedule 4
classification would be more suitable,
particularly for specific cannabinoid
products with minimal potential or risk
In regards to the place of supply to the
public, the majority felt that community
pharmacies would offer the best
accessibility for the patient, and could
be well monitored, but only with the
right support networks in place for
The concern for safety of both patient
and pharmacist was an important
aspect highlighted in the study.
In relation to safety of the patient:
long-term risks need to be monitored
through post-clinical trials to safeguard
In relation to concerns for pharmacy
safety important issues were raised.
Due to the pre-existing recreational
use of cannabis, and its propensity for
abuse, and based on past experiences
with harm minimisation programs
such as needle exchange and Opioid
Substitution Therapy (OST), pharmacy
safety and security measures need
to be addressed in much detail.
Some suggestions included training that
could be developed for both physicians
and pharmacists who may be under
duress, as a means of mitigating these
Stigma is of course another facet
that appears to be strongly attached
to the term cannabis, primarily as a
result of the negative aspects and
side effect profile associated with its
recreational use. Stigma held by the
public about cannabis was seen to
be the reason for wanting to ensure
that utmost precautions be taken
during the introduction of medicinal
cannabis in pharmacies. There was
palpable apprehension from some
participants, not wanting to be seen
as a 'cannabis-provider pharmacy'.
This is where public health campaigns
are needed to create and nurture
greater public awareness, and to help
differentiate between the medicinal and
recreational use of cannabis.
All of these questions and suggestions
for the implementation of cannabis
if addressed successfully can help
generate a streamlined system of access
to medicinal cannabis that not only
alleviates pain and suffering of those in
need, but also maintains transparency to
all stakeholders involved.
Through the research findings, it is
evident that in pharmacy there are
strong views built on clinical awareness,
compassionate deliberation and
previous experiences. Pharmacists are
central within any team of healthcare
professionals that hold the important
role of monitoring the safe use and
supply of medicines, including the
future supply of medicinal cannabis
if or when it is legalised. By exploring,
discussing and addressing these diverse
views captured through this study
we may be empowered to help shape
future policies and enable the successful
implementation of medicinal cannabis
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