Sweden has approved the use of medical cannabis for two patients suffering from chronic pain. It’s the first time that cannabis has been legally prescribed and approved by the Medical Products Agency.
For the very first time, patients in Sweden have been granted special permission to use cannabis for medical purposes, reports The Local. Earlier this month, Karl Mikael Kälkner of the Swedish Läkemedelsverket (Medical Products Agency, MPA) announced that the agency was approving cannabis for two patients suffering from chronic pain.
The MPA’s decision was made in response to doctors applying for a license to prescribe cannabis to a pair of patients suffering from chronic pain caused by back injuries. Fredrik von Kieseritzky, a doctor of organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry, had advised the physicians who applied for the licenses.
“I am happy that the MPA has taken the pragmatic step of making [cannabis] available for patients with chronic pain which no approved drug can relief,” von Kieseritzky told the Swedish news agency TT.
One of the two patients given permission for cannabis is Andreas Thörn, who experienced a severe spinal cord injury from a motorcycle accident in 1994. A couple of years ago, Thörn was found cultivating homegrown marijuana to treat his chronic nerve pain and was punished with a monetary fine. Since then, he’s been in a legal battle trying to get access to cannabis.
“It feels almost unreal. We have been struggling with this for a year and a half, and finally I get a chance to relax, get rid of the pain and get back to everyday life,” Thörn said on Swedish Television (SVT).
The MPA’s decision was “not an approval of the use of cannabis in general,” noted Kälkner. Rather, the agency has approved cannabis use for the two individual patients, who will obtain the substance from a company in the Netherlands. Advocates, however, hope the announcement will eventually open the door for more patients seeking relief from cannabis.
“Of course, it will not change the world, but it will change the situation for a few people,” said Dr. Claes Hulting, a physician who has campaigned for the medical use of cannabis.
Cannabis has demonstrated through a vast number of studies that it is effective for managing chronic pain. Both of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), have proven therapeutically beneficial.
“It can be dissolved in butter and baked. Of course it can be smoked, but we advise strongly against this. For me personally it is important to keep a watertight distinction between medicinal and recreational cannabis,” added von Kieseritzky.
Sweden has been historically opposed to cannabis use and marijuana continues to be legally and socially unacceptable. However, over recent years illegal cannabis farms in Sweden have been increasing, suggesting there’s greater demand.
“There is clearly some potential for abuse. This is a drug that is illegal to possess and consume. But we have other medicines that are also classed as narcotics. If the rules are correctly followed there is no reason that [cannabis] should not be used as a preparation in a clinical setting,” said Kälkner.
Dr. Hulting, on the other hand, believes the risks of patients using cannabis are negligible, and studies have shown regular use of cannabis by chronic pain patients to be safe.
“It is not about a bunch of cripples sitting in a corner and getting high, but about people who have chronic neuropathic pain they seek to ease,” Hulting told SVT.
In regards to cannabis policy, Sweden is among the most conservative countries in Europe, which as of recently is more open to exploring the possibility of a legal, regulated cannabis market.
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