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European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

, Volume 69, Issue 8, pp 1575–1580 | Cite as

The prevalence and incidence of medicinal cannabis on prescription in The Netherlands

  • Arno Hazekamp
  • Eibert R. Heerdink
Pharmacoepidemiology and Prescription

Abstract

Background

A growing number of countries are providing pharmaceutical grade cannabis to chronically ill patients. However, little published data is known about the extent of medicinal cannabis use and the characteristics of patients using cannabis on doctor’s prescription. This study describes a retrospective database study of The Netherlands.

Methods

Complete dispensing histories were obtained of all patients with at least one medicinal cannabis prescription gathered at pharmacies in The Netherlands in the period 2003–2010. Data revealed prevalence and incidence of use of prescription cannabis as well as characteristics of patients using different cannabis varieties.

Results

Five thousand five hundred forty patients were identified. After an initial incidence of about 6/100,000 inhabitants/year in 2003 and 2004, the incidence remained stable at 3/100,000/year in 2005–2010. The prevalence rate ranged from 5 to 8 per 100,000 inhabitants. Virtually all patients used some form of prescription medication in the 6 months preceding start of cannabis use, most particularly psycholeptics (45.5 %), analgesics (44.3 %), anti-ulcer agents (35.9 %) and NSAIDs (30.7 %). We found no significant association between use of medication of common indications for cannabis (pain, HIV/AIDS, cancer, nausea, glaucoma) and variety of cannabis used.

Conclusions

This is the first nationwide study into the extent of prescription of medicinal cannabis. Although the cannabis varieties studied are believed to possess different therapeutic effects based on their different content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), no differences in choice of variety was found associated with indication.

Keywords

Cannabis Therapeutic use Prevalence Incidence The Netherlands 

Notes

Acknowledgments

AH is Head of R&D at Bedrocan BV, The Netherlands. The Dutch Association for Legal Cannabis and its Constituents as Medicine (NCSM foundation, Oegstgeest, The Netherlands) is gratefully acknowledged for providing the funds to collect data from the SFK database and providing the data to the authors. No additional funding was received for conducting this study.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Metabolomics, Faculty of ScienceLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Pharmacoepidemiology and Clinical Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Division of Laboratory Medicine & PharmacyUniversity Medical CenterUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Gorlaeus LaboratoryLeidenThe Netherlands

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