Medicinal cannabis has recently attracted much media attention in Australia and across the world. With the exception of a few countries, cannabinoids remain illegal-known for their adverse effects rather than their medicinal application and therapeutic benefit. However, there is mounting evidence demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in alleviating neuropathic pain, improving multiple sclerosis spasticity, reducing chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, and many other chronic conditions. Many are calling for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis including consumers, physicians and politicians. Pharmacists are the gatekeepers of medicines and future administrators/dispensers of cannabis to the public, however very little has been heard about pharmacists’ perspectives. Therefore the aim of this study was to explore pharmacists’ views about medicinal cannabis; its legalisation and supply in pharmacy.
Semi-structured interviews with 34 registered pharmacists in Australia were conducted. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed ad verbatim and thematically analysed using the NVivo software.
Emergent themes included stigma, legislation, safety and collaboration. Overall the majority of pharmacists felt national legalisation of a standardised form of cannabis would be suitable, and indicated various factors and strategies to manage its supply. The majority of participants felt that the most suitable setting would be via a community pharmacy setting due to the importance of accessibility for patients.
This study explored views of practicing pharmacists, revealing a number of previously undocumented views and barriers about medicinal cannabis from a supply perspective. There were several ethical and professional issues raised for consideration. These findings highlight the important role that pharmacists hold in the supply of medicinal cannabis. Additionally, this study identified important factors, which will help shape future policies for the successful implementation of medicinal cannabis in healthcare. We recommend that these views and strategies be incorporated in the development of policies and legislations.