Last week, several medical associations expressed their resistance to House Bill No. 4477, or the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Bill authored by Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III. These medical associations declared that the bill ran “contrary to the policy of the state to safeguard the well-being of its citizenry, particularly the youth, from the harmful effects of dangerous drugs,” and that opposing the bill would be part of their “moral and ethical responsibility” to ensure the safety of their patients.
However, some medical experts would beg to disagree.
Former health secretary Jaime Z. Galvez Tan, MD, MPH, said during the Sept. 29 launch of the book “The Best 100 Philippine Medicinal Plants” he coauthored with Dr. Isidro C. Sia, MD, PhD, that he would support more intensive medicinal cannabis research before passing judgment on the banned plant commonly known as marijuana.
Inquirer Science/Health asked Galvez Tan if the cannabis plant would be included in the next editions of his book. He revealed that he has expressed a keen interest on studying the plant.
“While there are many synthetic drugs available for chronic pain, for patients in search of natural sources of relief from persistent pain, medical marijuana provides a safe, effective and efficacious alternative,” said Galvez Tan during a separate interview last Thursday.
“Devoid of severe toxic effects on the kidneys and liver [even with] prolonged use versus synthetic analgesics, medical cannabis becomes an even better choice,” he added.
“The fear of abuse or increased addiction is unfounded, given the good history of the regulated use of morphine in pain management [of] cancer and other chronic diseases in the Philippines. In a compassionate society and within a universal framework, it would be worth considering to include cannabis as part of our National Drug Formulary,” Galvez Tan recommended.
United in the view
In a Sept 30 breakfast forum held in Club Filipino organized by the Office of Representative Albano and the members of the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society and the Medical Cannabis Research Center, patients, parents, family members, advocates, invited doctors and academicians were united in the view that cannabis does have medical, palliative and therapeutic effects.
“The discussion on medical cannabis is now focused on efficacy, safety, dosing, allowable products and regulatory control. HB 4477 is a comprehensive law that aims to make medical cannabis accessible to Filipinos who suffer from debilitating conditions. The bill adopts the full meaning of compassion, i.e., feeling or showing concern for someone who is sick, hurt and poor. It is not limited to the narrow meaning and use of the compassionate special permit,” said PCCS and MCRC in a joint statement.
“We see that the bill is focused on the care and well-being of the patient, of the many sick people who are in desperate need of relief from suffering. Patients with epilepsy, cancer, HIV-AIDS, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain are among the many who will benefit from the bill. The bill prescribes a highly regulated and safe environment under the supervision of the Medical Cannabis Regulatory Authority (MCRA). Patients and doctors are required to have a bonafide relationship. Patients are closely supervised by qualified and licensed doctors to manage their medical condition,” it said.
The joint statement also noted that “for cultivation and dispensing, the bill provides strict regulations for licensed Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers (MCCC) and installs security mechanisms to prevent abuse and illicit use.”
In a statement sent by the PCCS and MCRC, the 10 medical organizations who oppose the bill are proposing for “the regulated importation of oral cannabis extract and/or synthetic analogues with proven efficacy for specific symptoms” and “the importation of the plant for research purposes”. These will be done under current regulations of the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Food and Drug Administration. The medical organizations plan to invoke the Compassionate Special Permit and “to create a task force composed of specialists, scientists, ethics and regulatory authorities.”
“We implore all concerned not to put our patients and their families in an uncomfortable position where they have to choose between HB 4477 and the proposal of the opposing medical organizations. We will continue to work for the passing of HB 4477. We uphold the interest of all Filipinos suffering from debilitating diseases. Our bias is for the patients and their families. We support their exclusive right to choose what is best for them. We recognize their right to participate in the management of their own health,” said the statement of PCCS and MCRC.
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