For the first time, two patients, both victims of serious back injuries, have received permission from the Swedish government to use medical cannabis for chronic pain. Doctors applied to the Swedish Läkemedelsverket (Medical Products Agency, or MPA) for a license to prescribe cannabis. Sweden is notoriously bullish towards cannabis users, and Reefer Madness-era attitudes still persist to this day.
Fredrik von Kieseritzky, a doctor of organic and medicinal chemistry, is the one who prescribed cannabis to the two patients. "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 relieve," Von Kieseritzky told TT news agency. "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,” he added.
The MPA stressed that the decision shouldn't be mistaken for a general approval of all applications of cannabis. "There is clearly some potential for abuse,” MPA spokesman Karl Mikael Kälkner cautioned. “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 then there is no reason that [cannabis] should not be used as a preparation in a clinical setting."
Both patients will receive a regulated flow of cannabis supplied from a Dutch company that the Swedish government oversees, as the Swedish government has used Dutch cannabis for medical research in the past.
Cannabis research in Sweden is conducted at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, using cannabinoids. Thanks to this research, Daniel Falkstedt, PhD, and his colleagues recently ruled out risk factors involved with medical cannabis in stroke victims. The results were published online in Stroke.
In Sweden, only a handful of cannabinoids are permitted for medical use, including Sativex for MS-related spasticity. In recent years, Swedes have begun illegally growing their own supply of cannabis, and a nation that once relied on imported cannabis in the form of Moroccan hash is now seeing a surge of home growing of both medicinal and recreational cannabis. The nation is now dabbling with regulated medical cannabis, and it is exactly what Sweden needs.