- Pharmacists across the world claim they lack confidence and knowledge about cannabis
- In practice, pharmacists support the medicinal use of cannabis, but also express concerns
- 70% of pharmacists use self-directed online learning to inform their practice of prescribing cannabis due to lack of literature
A new study has found that pharmacists across the world have low self-belief and knowledge when it comes to medical cannabis.
Researchers at Queensland University reviewed 26 studies that looked at the concerns, beliefs, and knowledge about cannabis from a range of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. The samples were taken from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, and the US.
In three of the studies reviewed, which were based in Australia, Canada, and the US, researchers found that while in practice pharmacists support the medicinal use of cannabis, due to a lack of in-depth knowledge about the pharmacology of cannabis, they also express concerns about the potential harms cannabis may cause patients.
Only half of the Canadian hospital pharmacists in one of the studies agreed that medicinal cannabis is effective. While these sentiments were not shared by their Australian and American counterparts, self-reported knowledge of cannabis was low in all three countries.
Pharmacists in the US study reported that they lack knowledge surrounding the actual science of how cannabis works medicinally, specifically the pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of medical cannabis.
In both the Canadian and US studies, pharmacists also reported they have inadequate knowledge about the legislation and procedures concerning prescribing, cultivation and distribution.
Canadian pharmacists also claimed there an apparent lack of accessible literature was a major limitation when faced with clinical questions, forcing nearly 70% of pharmacists to use self-directed online learning to inform their practice.
The potential for recreational misuse, the risk of drug-drug interactions, and the potential for medicinal cannabis to be illegally re-sold onto the black market were among the top concerns reported by pharmacists.
“It is important to know their attitudes and concerns about the delivery and use of medicinal cannabis, what knowledge they have, and where they are getting their information.”
– Lead author, Kyle Gardiner
The researchers also found that Reefer Madness era-propaganda still commands a worrying amount of legitimacy among medical professionals, as 55% of Canadian hospital pharmacists reported they were uncomfortable with the potential link between medical cannabis and psychiatric illness, while a similar proportion in another study either disagreed, or were unsure, that medical cannabis is safe.
The review’s authors concluded that although healthcare professionals were relatively supportive of medical cannabis in clinic practice, their support was often “counterbalanced” by a lack of confidence, competence and concerns for the associated risks.
Lead author, Kyle Gardiner, from Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, said:
“In almost all international jurisdictions, the involvement of at least one health professional is required for patients to acquire medicinal cannabis … so, clinicians are in the crosshairs and we need to understand their behaviours and engagement.
“It is important to know their attitudes and concerns about the delivery and use of medicinal cannabis, what knowledge they have, and where they are getting their information. However, these are a few pieces of a much larger picture.”
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