Survey Finds Strong Majority of Physicians Believe Marijuana is a “Legitimate Medical Therapy”

According to a new study – titled A survey of the attitudes, beliefs and knowledge about medical cannabis among primary care providers – around six in ten primary care physicians believe that medical cannabis is a “legitimate” therapeutic option. The study was published in the journal BMC Family Practice.

For the study researchers analyzed the attitudes of primary care providers in the Minnesota-based health care system. Researchers were from the Mayo Clinic.

The study found that 58% of physicians agree that “medical cannabis was a legitimate medical therapy.”

However, as noted by NORML, around half of respondents “expressed discomfort in talking to their patients about medical cannabis options, a finding that is also consistent with prior data. Many expressed a desire to receive additional education about cannabis in order to become better versed in the subject.”

The study concludes: “Providers generally believe that medical cannabis is a legitimate medical therapy. Significant opportunities exist to: 1) close knowledge gaps for clinicians through the collection and dissemination of information about the effectiveness of medical cannabis for state qualifying conditions; 2) alleviate concerns about drug interactions by exploring opportunities for information sharing between dispensaries and traditional medical practices; and 3) expand the knowledge base about how medical cannabis impacts patient QOL (quality of life).”

The full abstract of the study can be found below:

Background

Healthcare providers play a critical role in facilitating patient access to medical cannabis. However, previous surveys suggest only a minority of providers believe that medical cannabis confers benefits to patients. Significant new knowledge about the potential benefits and harms of medical cannabis has recently emerged. Understanding current attitudes and beliefs of providers may provide insight into the ongoing challenges they face as states expand access to medical cannabis.

Methods

We conducted an electronic survey of primary care providers in a large Minnesota-based healthcare system between January 23 and February 5, 2018. We obtained information about provider characteristics, attitudes and beliefs about medical cannabis, provider comfort level in answering patient questions about medical cannabis, and whether providers were interested in receiving additional education.

Results

Sixty-two providers completed the survey (response rate 31%; 62/199). Seventy-six percent of respondents were physicians and the average age was 46.3 years. A majority of providers believed (“strongly agree” or “somewhat agree”) that medical cannabis was a legitimate medical therapy (58.1%) and 38.7% believed that providers should be offering to patients for managing medical conditions. A majority (> 50%) of providers believed that medical cannabis was helpful for treating the qualifying medical conditions of cancer, terminal illness, and intractable pain. A majority of providers did not know if medical cannabis was effective for managing nearly one-half of the other state designated qualifying medical conditions. Few believed that medical cannabis improved quality of life domains. Over one-third of providers believed that medical cannabis interacted with medical therapies. One-half of providers were not ready to or did not want to answer patient questions about medical cannabis, and the majority of providers wanted to learn more about it.

Conclusions

Healthcare providers generally believe that medical cannabis is a legitimate medical therapy. Provider knowledge gaps about the effectiveness of medical cannabis for state designated qualifying conditions need to be addressed, and accurate information about the potential for drug interactions needs to be disseminated to address provider concerns. Clinical trial data about how medical cannabis improves patient quality of life domains is desperately needed as this information can impact clinical decision-making.

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