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Educating doctors in New Zealand

During July 2019, I visited New Zealand to host three medical cannabis master classes – training events for healthcare professionals, in my role of Director of Education at The Academy of Medical Cannabis in London.

Ahead of the launch of The Ministry of Health's scheme to enable domestic commercial cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis, it was heartening to see such a positive response from clinicians in the country. Over 350 people attended the masterclasses over the course of my visit.

For information, the key learning objectives for healthcare professionals were:

  • Understand the fundamentals of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and be able to explain it to both a patient and a colleague not familiar with it.

  • Be able to describe the key chemical compounds in the cannabis plant used clinically including CBD, THCA, THC, and terpenes.

  • Understand side effects of medical cannabis, both long and short-term.

  • Know the relative and absolute contraindications to prescribing medical cannabis.

  • Be able to apply a medical cannabis care plan minimising side effects and psychoactivity and maximising efficacy for a variety of chronic conditions within your area of specialisation.

  • Understand the potential safety issues of medical cannabis use and how to counsel patients on these concerns.

  • Review different delivery systems for medical cannabinoids including oral oils, vaporised products, and how/when to use.

  • Understand the current cannabis products available for prescribers on the New Zealand market.

  • Understand the patient clinic flow, both direct to specialist and in-house GP-referred streams, and triaging system.

  • Review validated questionnaire tools used to assess and monitor patient response and symptoms.

  • Understand the basic language of cannabinoid medicine from a scientific perspective.

  • Be able to confidently counsel patients on potential risks of medical cannabis and use in relative contraindication cases where appropriate.

  • Understand CV risks and management of patients with CV risk factors with medical cannabis products.

  • How to report adverse events.

  • Be able to conduct an initial cannabis medicine-focused visit, appropriate to your speciality.

  • Be able to conduct follow-up cannabis medicine visits, including dosage adjustment, CBD and THC content and cultivar switching where needed.

  • How to use and dose available products, read labels and write a medical cannabis prescription.

  • Understand the current regulatory environment in New Zealand.

  • Understand medical cannabis legality in global context and where to get information for other countries if patients ask and travel advice.

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