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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Simplified guideline for prescribing medical cannabinoids in primary care

G Michael Allan, Jamil Ramji, Danielle Perry, Joey Ton, Nathan P Beahm, Nicole Crisp, Beverly Dockrill, Ruth E Dubin, Ted Findlay, Jessica Kirkwood, Michael Fleming, Ken Makus, Xiaofu Zhu, Christina Korownyk, Michael R Kolber, James McCormack, Sharon Nickel, Guillermina Noël, Adrienne J Lindblad
Canadian Family Physician Médecin de Famille Canadien 2018, 64 (2): 111-120
29449241

OBJECTIVE: To develop a clinical practice guideline for a simplified approach to medical cannabinoid use in primary care; the focus was on primary care application, with a strong emphasis on best available evidence and a promotion of shared, informed decision making.

METHODS: The Evidence Review Group performed a detailed systematic review of 4 clinical areas with the best evidence around cannabinoids: pain, nausea and vomiting, spasticity, and adverse events. Nine health professionals (2 generalist family physicians, 2 pain management-focused family physicians, 1 inner-city family physician, 1 neurologist, 1 oncologist, 1 nurse practitioner, and 1 pharmacist) and a patient representative comprised the Prescribing Guideline Committee (PGC), along with 2 nonvoting members (pharmacist project managers). Member selection was based on profession, practice setting, location, and lack of financial conflicts of interest. The guideline process was iterative through content distribution, evidence review, and telephone and online meetings. The PGC directed the Evidence Review Group to address and provide evidence for additional questions as needed. The key recommendations were derived through consensus of the PGC. The guideline was drafted, refined, and distributed to a group of clinicians and patients for feedback, then refined again and finalized by the PGC.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Recommendations include limiting medical cannabinoid use in general, but also outline potential restricted use in a small subset of medical conditions for which there is some evidence (neuropathic pain, palliative and end-of-life pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury). Other important considerations regarding prescribing are reviewed in detail, and content is offered to support shared, informed decision making.

CONCLUSION: This simplified medical cannabinoid prescribing guideline provides practical recommendations for the use of medical cannabinoids in primary care. All recommendations are intended to assist with, not dictate, decision making in conjunction with patients.

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