Oncology Clinicians and the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: A Survey on Medical Cannabis Practice Patterns, Barriers to Enrollment, and Educational Needs
Background: Medical cannabis has been available in the State of Minnesota since July 2015 through the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program (MMCP). Objectives: Our study aimed to delineate oncology providers’ views on medical cannabis, identify barriers to patient enrollment, and assess clinicians’ interest in a clinical trial of medical cannabis in patients with stage IV cancer. Methods: From June to August 2017, we distributed a 14-question survey to Minnesota oncology physicians, advanced practice nurses, and physician assistants who care for adults and children with cancer. Descriptive analyses for each question were provided for all survey respondents. Results: Of the 529 eligible survey participants, 153 (29%) responded to our survey; 68 respondents were registered with the MMCP. Most identified themselves as a medical oncologist or medical oncology nurse practitioner/physician assistant (n=125, 82%), and most practiced in a community setting (n=102, 67%). Overall, 65% of respondents supported the use of medical cannabis. Perceived cost and inadequate research were the highest barriers to MMCP patient enrollment. The lowest barriers included lack of health group support for allowing certification of patients and risk of social stigma. Of all respondents, 36% lacked confidence in discussing the risks and benefits of medical cannabis, and 85% wanted more education. Conclusions: Although support for cannabis use in the cancer setting is growing, significant barriers remain. This study illustrates a clear need to give clinicians both data and education to guide their discussions about the benefits, risks, and cost considerations of using medical cannabis for cancer-related symptoms.