By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
DESPITE concerns over whether it contains medical properties that can cure cancer, more than 5,000 patients who are currently waiting for cannabinoid drugs from prominent traditional medicine practitioner Decha Siriphat will be given a new batch of medicine within the next month.
Decha vowed at a press conference at Chulalongkorn University yesterday that he would do whatever it took to resume his routine distribution of cannabinoid medicines to patients in need.
The patients, some of whom rely on his cannabinoid drugs, have now been without their medicine for nearly two weeks after its distribution was suspended following a raid earlier this month, said Decha.
“My priority is to help as many patients as possible with my formulas of cannabinoid medicines, and I will do everything I can to make sure those who are still waiting for their new consignment will get the drugs as soon as possible,” he said.
“This is a very urgent matter, because many of the patients, who are suffering from cancer, have been unable to get the required medication since April 3.”
Decha said he was now proceeding with the registration process to obtain official status as a traditional medical practitioner with the Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine Department. He needs to attend a training workshop on medical cannabis use, in order to get permission from the Food and Drug Administration to legally produce and distribute cannabinoid medicines.
By law, marijuana remains an illicit narcotic. The raw material for producing cannabinoid medicines is available only from confiscated cannabis. Decha has requested the Office of the Narcotics Control Board to return his seized cannabis so that he can mass produce a new lot of cannabinoid medicine to ensure that all patients in need will get their medicine.
Meanwhile, the Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine Department deputy director-general Dr Pramote Stienrat disclosed that the earliest new round of cannabinoid medicines will be ready for distribution within the next month as part of human trials for Decha’s traditional formulas.
Pramote said this is because Decha’s cannabinoid recipe is not on the list of 16 permitted traditional cannabinoid medicines. In order to receive official recognition for the formula, the department will have to rigorously examine its components to ensure the medicine is safe for human use and effective for medical treatment.
“According to the required official procedures, we expect to resume the distribution of Decha’s cannabinoid drugs to his patients within the next month at the earliest, as part of the human clinical trials examining his cannabinoid drugs,” he informed.
Pramote noted there were already many treatment records from patients who have been using Decha’s drugs to cure their illnesses, and so lab and animal testing of the medicine can be omitted to save time.
“Once this cannabinoid medicine formula has been approved for its effectiveness and safety, the department will add it to the list of permitted cannabinoid medicines and allow its general use for medical treatment,” Pramote added.
However, Dr Thira Woratanarat, a medical lecturer at the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine of Chulalongkorn University, cautioned that despite some medical research demonstrating that medicinal properties in cannabis can heal the side-effects of chemotherapy and relieve seizures, there was no academic study to prove it could treat cancer, despite what many people believe.
“I am worried that there are many people trying to overly advertise the medical properties of cannabis [claiming] that it can cure cancer, which is very dangerous,” Thira said.
“This is because it makes many cancer patients stop their conventional medical treatments and take only cannabinoid medicines, which in many cases leads to the patients’ condition worsening.”
He urged patients to consult their doctor first and give careful consideration before switching to medical cannabis to cure their sickness. The use of cannabis for medical treatment has not yet been standardised and it could lead to many unpleasant side-effects and health risks, he added.