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Pharmaceutical Cannabis prescribed in Greece for first time

For the first time in Greece, patients can find relief from chronic pain and other symptoms with pharmaceutical cannabis prescribed by a medical doctor. This was reported by the state-run news agency amna and other media over the weekend.

The drug can be purchased at the pharmacy and at the cost paid by the patient. However, not all doctors are eligible to prescribe the pharmaceutical cannabis.

Here is the report:

Anna Paga, a 60-year-old mother of three, may possibly be one of the first patients in Greece who will be able to purchase cannabis for medicinal use at a pharmacy, with a prescription from a doctor. Anna was given the prescription as a treatment for chronic pain caused by psoriatic arthritis.

“What can I say about this day. A very big thank you, relief, vindication, freedom to live. I was among the first to get the prescription via the electronic prescription system and I didn’t expect it, I couldn’t believe it. I burst into tears….an end to the risks and fear,” she said, talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

Paga said that the diagnosis transformed what had been a busy, happy life into a never-ending nightmare of constant pain as she cycled through successive rounds of abortive treatments for her condition, which ultimately had to be stopped. She said the pain had exhausted her to the point where she considered taking her own life before discovering the option of pharmaceutical cannabis on the Internet, through an organisation called Mothers for Cannabis (MAMAKA). These drugs, however, she had to obtain through illegal channels from abroad, “with all that this entails”.

With pharmaceutical cannabis now legally available in Greece, she no longer needs to risk a non-legal route, as cannabis products for medicinal use can now be legally prescribed and sold.

Doctors who prescribe cannabis, however, are quick to point out that it’s “not a panacea” and demands “patience from both the patient and doctor” as regards its location, the right dosage and the results.

According to Dr. Chrysoula Karanastasi, an anaesthetist who is head of the Greek Medical Society for Cannabinoids, “there is no restriction. Everyone could potentially benefit and everyone could see their hopes disappointed. Cannabinoids are a new group of pharmacologically active substances, which behave in a different way to the drugs available until now. I would not say that they cover a specific gap so much as complement our treatment options.”

The cost of the treatment with so-called “final pharmaceutical cannabis products” is covered exclusively by the patients, as there is no state insurance coverage.

while finding the right dose is a step-by-step process that is individually tailored to each patient, in collaboration with the doctor.

Anna Paga noted that, in her own case, there was a spectacular improvement in her symptoms and significant reduction in the inflammation caused by her condition, with inflammation indicators having returned to normal levels after eight months of treatment. While pharmaceutical cannabis might not be a panacea, she noted, she had struck lucky and it had saved her.

Doctors who have the right to prescribed pharmaceutical cannabis in Greece include anaesthetists, neurologists and pathologists specializing in cancer, infections and rheumatism.

Prescriptions can then be repeated by other doctors for six months but the treatment must then be re-evaluated by a specialist.

According to Dr. Karanastasi, it was not a process to be entered into lightly, as the doctor needs to be well trained and knowledgeable in its use.

She noted that the cannabis products that must be prescribed are those containing more than 0.2 pct of the psychoactive Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) “but even those not requiring prescription are pharmacologically active and should not be taken without the supervision of a trained health professional.”

The conditions for which its use is indicated include nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy for cancer and AIDS/HIV, pain and spasticity in multiple sclerosis, persistent pain that does not respond to available treatments or where treatments are not well tolerated by patients and increasing the appetite of patients receiving palliative care, amna reported.

A few years ago, Greece allowed medical cannabis plants in the country and worked towards exports and its use for medical reasons, while stores popped up in several cities. The relevant legislation was approved by the Parliament in 2018.

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