A group of doctors have warned they will not prescribe the products approved under the medicinal cannabis access programme.
The group of nine neurologists have written to the Minister for Health warning that the four products currently available under the programme are “inappropriate and potentially harmful.”
Under the scheme, cannabis products can be prescribed for patients who fail to respond to other treatments.
All four of the products currently approved under the scheme contain THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.
In the letter, the doctors warn that there is not enough evidence to support the use of THC for epilepsy treatment – and significant concerns about potential psychiatric and cognitive effects.
Dr Peter Widdess Walsh, a Consultant Neurologist at Beaumount Hospital, told Newstalk they are particularly concerned about its use in children.
“For example, with the vaccines, we all wanted to know that they went through rigorous trials before everybody started to take them,” he said.
“So, we have had rigorous trials for cannabidiol (CBD), we don’t for THC. We know that it has the potential for side-effects - psychoactive side-effects - and we don’t know fully its effect on children and development.
“With the products that are in the programme at the moment, one might have to use high doses to get up to a therapeutic level and we have concerns about the safety of that and we are not prepared to use them.”
Dr Widdess Walsh noted that none of the approved products contain pure CBD – which has been shown to be relatively safe under clinical supervision.
He insisted none of the products that are currently available are suitable for patients with severe epilepsy.
“We need to have a product in the programme that we can actually use and currently for epilepsy there isn’t one,” he said.
“For the other indications – multiple sclerosis and palliative care – they perhaps can use the products that may be available but the majority of patients that will use the access programme will be epilepsy patients and we don’t currently have a product we feel we can safely use and that is our concern.”
In the letter, the doctors warn that due to the “widespread concern” about the programme among neurologists, it runs the risk of not being used.