First Statistical Study on Medicinal Cannabis use in the Netherlands

The first study of Dutch medi-weed users conducted since medical marihuana was legalized is starting to reveal its results.

The Dutch Association for Legal Cannabis and its Constituents for Medicinal Use (NCSM) investigated the use of prescribed cannabis over the period 2003-2010. A summary of the preliminary results (in Dutch) was published in the weekly trade journal for pharmacists, Pharmaceutisch Weekblad in June, 2011.

Pharmaceutical grade cannabis has been available to Dutch patients by medical prescription only since 2003, but until now very little was known about who was using it and how, and in what numbers.

Detailed data was provided by the Dutch Foundation for Pharmaceutical Statistics (SFK), which collects exhaustive data about the use of prescribed pharmaceuticals in the Netherlands.

The data available for each individual prescription included: the variety of cannabis dispensed, the amount dispensed in grams, the geographical location by zip code, and the date of delivery. Each patient was identified by a random ID code only.

The results revealed that cannabis was dispensed more than 40,000 times to about 6,000 different patients over the study period 2003-2010. The number of patients using cannabis for medicinal purposes steadily increased in recent years, growing from about 850 in 2006, to more than 1,300 in 2010.

Further statistical analysis of the data revealed results such as the average use of medicinal cannabis per patient, the preferred cannabis varieties, and geographical distribution of users. This information has not yet been published.

All medicinal cannabis used in the Netherlands is grown by Bedrocan BV under a contract with the Office for Medicinal Cannabis (OMC), which is part of the Ministry of Health. The OMC is responsible for all production, distribution and export.

Cannabis flos (buds) may only be classed as medicinal in the Netherlands if it used in a medical application and is of pharmaceutical quality.

The OMC states that there is sufficient scientific evidence that medicinal cannabis can be effective treatment for: spasticity in combination with pain, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy or HIV- and hepatitis C- medication, chronic (neurogenic) pain, Tourette’s syndrome, and therapy-resistant glaucoma.

Pharmaceutical quality means it contains no pesticide residues, no heavy metals, bacteria, mould or other contaminants. The concentration of active ingredients in each batch grown must be the same so that the patient always gets the same strength.

Medicinal Uses Of Marijuana

Bedrocan currently produces four different varieties: three sativa types: Bedrocan (19% THC), Bedrobinol (12% THC), and Bediol (6% THC & 7.5% CBD), and one indica variety, Bedica (14% THC).

Since 2007 several pharmacies have become specialized in medicinal cannabis. They buy medicinal cannabis in bulk and can therefore deliver the products for a lower price.

Moreover, they provide better overall information about the products and its use. These two factors may have had an influence on the growth of the number of patients.

Further study on these and more data will be performed in cooperation with the University of Utrecht, department of Pharmaco-epidemiology and Pharmacotherapy. The aim is to present them at the IACM conference in Bonn, Germany in September this year.

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