The Czech Republic is seeing more patients use medical cannabis. There were 665 patients using medical cannabis in May, to which Doctors prescribed them more than 5,000 grams over the entire year. Experts say that data regarding the success rate of treatment, particularly in cancer, is missing. The cost of cannabis treatment is estimated to be 450 million Czech koruna, or 20 million dollars. The majority of cannabis treatment will be covered by public health insurance from next year.
Currently cannabis is mainly used to relieve pain. But modern research suggests that cannabis could be used to treat cancer.
Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, said that Czechia should be inspired to use medical cannabis in Israel, whose representatives spoke today at the symposium. Babiš stated that Israel has over 50,000 patients and 200 doctors who prescribe cannabis.
Next year, the slavic nation will have 3,000 patients, for whom 90 percent of the cost will be covered by the state. They will receive 30 grams a month but this amount can be increased with the approval of the reviewing physician. Lumir Hanus is a cannabis researcher who lived in Jerusalem and worked at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after leaving the Czech Republic. He believes that the decision should be made at the doctor’s discretion.
“I believe it should be based on the severity of the disease. Expert who has been studying the disease for over 50 years said that some patients may need more.”
KOPAC, the Patient Association for Cannabis Treatment, also criticizes the low monthly dose. According to Adam Vojtech, Minister of Health, this proposal is based upon the average monthly dose prescribed Czech doctors. Patients are also upset that doctors will be able to track how much cannabis was prescribed and in what form.
The minister added that “collecting data is important because cannabis is an alternate treatment that is still in its infancy.”
Hanus claims that the data won’t be sufficient to draw conclusions. He stated that the data would be useless statistics. However he did suggest that it would be possible to conduct a double-blind study, where patients are either given a placebo, the usual treatment for their condition, or the cannabis substance.
Irena Storova is the director of the State Office for Drug Control which additionally includes the State Cannabis Agency. She says that the absence of clinical data verification is a major problem worldwide. According to Storova, there was no SUKL study submitted for evaluation in the Czech Republic. Because cannabis is illegal and stigmatized, research is still in its infancy.
Hanus said that many doctors are reluctant to use it.
The Czech Republic had already begun the survey in the 1950s. Hanus continued the work in Israel. Research has shown that cannabinoid-receptors are one of the most prevalent in the human body. Hanus says that not all types of medical cannabis are suitable for all patients and all diseases. Israeli research showed that one type of medical cannabis was effective for autism in children, while another variety did not work for women.
Experts say that only treatments that relieve symptoms are allowed. This includes uncontrollable pain and neurological symptoms like tremors or convulsions. Hanus claims that cannabis can be used to treat cancer. This has been proved in animal and cell studies. While this would certianly suggest it could work for people as well, according to Michael Dor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official, the effects of cannabis on humans have not been proved.
The reluctance to proceed with cannabis treatment and research is largely a result of the stigma surrounding. But as we head towards more cannabis tolerant societies this is likely to change in the coming decade.