Imports of cannabis-based drugs soar but prescriptions are still rare

Cannabis-based treatments have shown great promise for a number of conditions, such as chronic pain, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. As a result, the number of drugs approved by Anvisa that use cannabis as a base, as well as imports, has also been growing.

In all, there are already 14 cannabis-based drugs approved by Anvisa, which can be found in pharmacies here in Brazil. Imports have also risen sharply, from 19,150 in 2020 to 40,191 in 2021, an increase of 109.8% in just one year.

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Prescription is still very rare

However, cannabis-based medicines can only be sold with a doctor’s prescription, and this is where the issue starts to get a little more complex. Even with the rise in drug approvals, the number of prescriptions is still relatively low.

According to data from Anvisa, only 2,100 Brazilian professionals are able to prescribe cannabis-based medicines. This number is equivalent to only 0.5% of the total number of doctors currently working in Brazil.

“The medical profession needs to delve deeper into the potential of medical cannabis, because, without knowledge, there is no safety to prescribe”, declared neurosurgeon Flávia Montagner. According to the doctor, the demand for cannabis-based medicines by patients has grown a lot.

Problems in training

Low prescribing is largely due to very little talk about cannabis in medical schools. Credits: Shutterstock

Montagner, who is the founder of WeCann Academy, a Brazilian institution that offers courses on endocannabinoid medicine for doctors, also recalls that cannabis is little discussed in medical schools and steps related to specialization in medical training.

“There is no access to this knowledge in the medical school, nor in medical residency, and there are still few options for books and qualified courses that teach the step-by-step of this therapy and how to prescribe in practice, with safety and good results”, says the doctor.

According to her, it is the responsibility of the medical community to improve knowledge about cannabis-based medicines. With this, it will be possible to offer increasingly safe, effective and assertive treatments for patients.

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