The Malta Independent 24 October 2018, Wednesday

Medical marijuana ‘not a wonder drug’, ‘will not fill a void in the medicine market’ - MAM

Joanna Demarco Thursday, 14 December 2017, 12:25 Last update: about 11 months ago

The introduction of medical marijuana will not fill a gap where medicine does not currently exist in the medicine market, the Malta Assocation of Medicine (MAM) said this morning, explaining that the scientific evidence that medical marijuana is beneficial is "weak to non-existent", whilst the side-effect profile of the drug is high when compared to other drugs.

Explaining the association’s stance on the topic discussed in parliament this week, which is in line with that of the World Medical Association, MAM general secretary Martin Balzan also emphasised the need to diminish the public’s view of the medical marijuana as a ‘wonder drug’. 


“There are drugs which are better and safer, with a lower side effect profile, and that is why it should be a last resort,” Balzan explained, adding that the level of evidence is low when compared to that of other medicines. 

“The evidence is weak to non-existent, not many studies have been done, the gold standard of medicine, which is the Randomised Control Trial (RCT) has not been done. Currently, there are better medicines with better evidence, this is a medicine of last resort,” he said. 

He went on to explain that while the scientific evidence of the benefits of medical marijuana is weak, the side-effect profile is high. He advised that the drug should only be used “when standard medicine fails.” Emphasising that medical marijuana "is not a wonder drug", he argued that the public seems to have a warped idea of medical marijuana and that media has sensationalised the drug.

However, they also stated that they agree with the criteria of the current proposal on the drug. “If it is going to be in, this (how the proposal states) is the best way,” said the association. 

“We think that the law gives enough safeguarding, but we do not want a culture to be created where the patient goes to get cannabis from the pharmacy instead of the black market,” he said, articulating MAM's strong stance against marijuana for recreational purposes. 

Last Sunday, The Malta Independent on Sunday reported that the amendments to the Drug Dependancy (treatment not imprisonment) Bill would allow medical practitioners to prescribe medical marijuana if they believe there is no better alternative, however ban medicinal preparations intended for smoking. Therefore, medicinal cannabis would be legally prescribed in the form of edibles - oil, or other non-smoking methods of consumption.

Shadow Minister for Health Stephen Spiteri also hailed the ban on smoking products because of the room for abuse it could lead to for recreational purposes.

Partit Demokratiku MP Godfrey Farrugia also called for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis for non-smoking purposes to improve the patients' quality of life where no other alternative exists.

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