Medicinal cannabis (MC) products have been available on prescription in Australia for around six years. General practitioners (GPs) are at the forefront of MC prescribing and recent years have seen substantial increases in prescription numbers. This study examined the current knowledge, experiences, and attitudes of Australian GPs around MC. We also compared our findings to those of an earlier 2017 investigation.
We conducted a cross-sectional study using a 42-item on-line questionnaire adapted from our earlier 2017 survey. The current survey was completed by GPs attending an on-line, multi-topic educational seminar. Australian GPs (n = 505) completed the survey between November 2021 and February 2022. Data were synthesised using descriptive statistics. MC ‘prescribers’ and ‘non-prescribers’ responses were compared using Pearson’s χ2 tests.
While most GPs (85.3%) had received patient enquiries about MC during the last three months, only half (52.3%) felt comfortable discussing MC with patients. Around one fifth (21.8%) had prescribed a MC product. GPs strongly supported MC prescribing for palliative care, cancer pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and epilepsy, more so than in our 2017 survey. Prescribing for mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety) and insomnia received less support. Opioids, benzodiazepines, and chemotherapy drugs were rated as more hazardous than MC. GPs correctly endorsed concerns around Δ-tetrahydrocannabinol-related driving impairment and drug-seeking behaviour. However, additional concerns endorsed around cannabidiol causing addiction and driving impairment do not agree with current evidence. Consistent with this, many GPs (66.9%) felt they had inadequate knowledge of MC.
Acceptance of MC as a treatment option has increased among Australian GPs since 2017. However, there is a clear need for improved training and education of GPs around cannabis-based medicines to provide increased numbers of skilled prescribers in the community.

© 2022. The Author(s).