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Ben Long author image Ben Long
11/10/2017
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New research centre to study medicinal cannabis

Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence to investigate quality and safety issues

A team of Australian researchers and clinicians and has been awarded $2.5million in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding to establish a world-first centre to coordinate research into medicinal cannabis use.

The Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical and Research Excellence (ACRE), will be co-led by Professor Jenny Martin from the University of Newcastle (UON) and Professor Nadia Solowij from the University of Wollongong (UOW) School of Psychology and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute.

It will involve researchers and clinicians from at least 10 other Australian universities and other research institutions. NHMRC funding for the new Centre was announced by Federal Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP on 11 October Access to cannabinoids for medicinal purposes has been hampered by difficulties sourcing reliable, consistent and clinically suitable products that are safe and effective for specific medical conditions.

“In many Australian states people can now access cannabinoids for medicinal purposes under the supervision of a medical specialist, but it can be difficult to source reliable, consistent and suitable products that are known to be safe and effective for specific conditions,” Professor Martin said.

“Furthermore, doctors have expressed concerns about the rapid changes to legislation without sufficient information to guide their prescribing.

“Recent legislation has improved the situation but appropriate research is needed to enable evidence to guide doctors on products and dosages that are safe and effective.”

ACRE will undertake medical cannabinoid research, consolidate existing data into guidance, and link health outcomes from people currently accessing local and imported products to guide plant growing and product formulation into appropriate medicines.

“At this critical juncture where legislation around cannabis and cannabinoids is rapidly changing in Australia and worldwide, there is tremendous opportunity for Australia to establish world leadership in cautious and appropriately balanced management of the implementation of medicinal cannabinoids into specialist and primary health care settings,” Professor Solowij said.

ACRE investigators will link scientific teams with specialist and national primary health care infrastructure to support information sharing, national monitoring, and linkage with Government regulatory and advisory groups, train a new highly skilled medical research workforce in this field and conduct basic research leading into eventual clinical trials, to improve health outcomes for Australians.

Other participating institutions are University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, Griffith University, University of Queensland, University of New South Wales, Hunter New England Health, University of Technology Sydney, Hunter Medical Research Institute, Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

ABOUT PROFESSOR SOLOWIJ

Nadia Solowij, PhD, is a Professor in the School of Psychology, University of Wollongong and a researcher with the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute. She has been researching the effects of long-term cannabis use for more than 25 years using neuropsychological, psychophysiological and brain imaging techniques in adult and adolescent cannabis users and people with schizophrenia and comorbid cannabis use.

She has more than 100 scientific publications including her book Cannabis and Cognitive Functioning (Cambridge University Press) and is the most published researcher in the world on the topic of cannabis and the brain. Her recent research has focused on therapeutic or harmful effects of different cannabinoids.

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