Thailand: Medical cannabis available in Phuket

PHUKET: The availability of medical marijuana treatments via Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket Town has been highly praised, giving patients who have exhausted standard pharmaceutical treatment options without success another form of remedy. Reports The Phuket News.

Dr Thanit Sermkaew, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO), plainly gave his support for the new treatments available.

“I agree with this kind of treatment. It is another option for patients to receive treatment for their conditions,” he said.

“Each person responds differently to medical treatment, so medical marijuana treatments might work better for some patients,” he added.

Currently medical marijuana treatments in Phuket are available only at Vachira Phuket Hospital, confirmed Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol.

“Vachira hospital is the only medical facility legally empowered to dispense medical marijuana treatment. No other hospitals or medical facilities on the island are allowed to give patients medical marijuana treatments because the Ministry of Public Health allowed only one place in each province,” he said.

“Other government hospitals such as Patong Hospital, Thalang Hospital and Chalong Hospital are not allowed to use medical marijuana treatments. The Phuket Provincial Hospital [often also called the ‘OrBorJor Hospital’] is not allowed.

“Private hospitals including Bangkok Hospital Phuket, Bangkok Hospital Siriroj and Mission Hospital are also not allowed. It is not legally available from them to use,” he added.

Dr Busaya Santisant of the Medical Cannabis Clinic at Vachira Phuket Hospital told The Phuket News that the clinic has welcomed only a few dozen patients, but the effects on those patients’ lives has been very positive.

“The medical marijuana treatments are a good thing, and a good option for people who do not have complicated diseases. So far I have taken care of 39 people since the clinic opened in November last year. At present, there are 20 patients who use treatments via this clinic,” she said.

“I have found that medical marijauna treatments have improved their lives,” she added.

However, Dr Busaya expressed concern for people using marijuana to self-medicate their own ailments.

“Right now, I am concerned about people who use ‘underground’ marijuana treatments because the patient will never know what else is mixed in the treatment.  I would like to ask such people to come to our clinic so we can look into the conditions they are suffering and provide proper care for them,” she added.

The treatments available at the clinic are divided into two categories.

‘Thai Alternative Treatment’ comprises four marijuana-based medicines called Sukkasaiyat, Tamlaiphrameru , Kae lom Kae Sen and hemorrhoid medication. The four medicines use marijuana leaves combined with another Thai herb, and are used to help treat migraines and digestive problems, among other ailments, Dr Busaya explained.

The second category, ‘Applied Thai Traditional Medicine’, uses marijuana oil extract available in two forms: THC only, and a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD. Both forms of the extract oil are used for treating a wide range of conditions, Dr Busays noted, including epilepsy, nausea and vomiting (especially for patients undergoing chemotherapy), involuntary spasms of the nervous system, nerve pain, AIDS patients and end-stage cancer patients.

One vial of THC only medicine costs B327, while one vial of the THC:CBD medicine costs B994. Those who have registered Vachira Phuket Hospital as their nominated hospital under the Social Security Fund can receive the medicines as part of the state health coverage, Dr Busaya said. However, under the current Ministry of Health regulations, those who have registered at other hospitals will have to pay, she said.

People looking to use medical marijuana treatments are welcome to visit the clinic at Vachira, which is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 1pm to 3pm, Dr Busaya said.

“The conditions the patient is experiencing must be one of those recognised by the Ministry of Health as eligible for medical marijuana treatment,” Dr Busaya said.

“Also, medical marijuana treatment must be approved by a doctor, psychologist and a pharmacist. Patients will not be given the medicines just because they asked for them,” she added.

In order for patients to receive medical marijuana treatment, they must present themselves at the clinic to be examined by a doctor, who must recommend them for the treatment, Dr Busaya explained.

“The doctor will first try alternative medical treatment, but if that fails only then will the doctor recommend medical marijuana medicine,” she added.

The doctor will follow up for three months to see if the medical marijuana treatment is effective, Dr Busaya noted.

Dr Busaya explained that a letter of reference from a patient’s regular private doctor or another hospital will be accepted to support a patient’s request for medical marijuana treatment, but a letter alone will not be enough evidence for the clinic to start issuing the patient medical marijuana medicines.

“The patient must be assessed by a doctor here at Vachira hospital, in line the regulations set out by the Ministry of Public Health,” she said.

“We do not want patients to miss the chance to receive the right medical treatment,” Dr Busaya concluded.