Objectives To examine the knowledge and attitudes of Australian general practitioners (GP) towards medicinal cannabis, including patient demand, GP perceptions of therapeutic effects and potential harms, perceived knowledge and willingness to prescribe.
Design, setting and participants A cross-sectional survey completed by 640 GPs (response rate=37%) attending multiple-topic educational seminars in five major Australian cities between August and November 2017.
Main outcome measures Number of patients enquiring about medicinal cannabis, perceived knowledge of GPs, conditions where GPs perceived it to be beneficial, willingness to prescribe, preferred models of access, perceived adverse effects and safety relative to other prescription drugs.
Results The majority of GPs (61.5%) reported one or more patient enquiries about medicinal cannabis in the last three months. Most felt that their own knowledge was inadequate and only 28.8% felt comfortable discussing medicinal cannabis with patients. Over half (56.5%) supported availability on prescription, with the preferred access model involving trained GPs prescribing independently of specialists. Support for use of medicinal cannabis was condition-specific, with strong support for use in cancer pain, palliative care and epilepsy, and much lower support for use in depression and anxiety.
Conclusions The majority of GPs are supportive or neutral with regards to medicinal cannabis use. Our results highlight the need for improved training of GPs around medicinal cannabis, and the discrepancy between GP-preferred models of access and the current specialist-led models.
- primary healthcare
- medicinal cannabis
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EAK and AS contributed equally.
Contributors RM, ISM, EAK, AS and NE conceived the study. ISM collected the data. EAK, AS and ISM conducted the data analysis and wrote the manuscript. All authors reviewed the manuscript.
Funding This work was supported by The Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at The University of Sydney.
Competing interests ISM is Academic Director of The Lambert Initiative and an National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Principal Research Fellow and receives research funding from the Australian Research Council and NHMRC. He is involved in an NHMRC-funded clinical trial using the cannabis extract, nabiximols (Sativex). This survey was conducted at seminars run by HealthEd. RM is the CEO of HealthEd, and ISM received honoraria and travel expenses from HealthEd for lectures conducted at these events. All other authors have no competing interests to declare.
Patient consent Not required.
Ethics approval Ethical approval for the survey was granted by The University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee (2017/692).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data are available.
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