Background: A medicinal cannabis pilot program was launched in Denmark in 2018 to support patients as countermeasure against self-medication by use of cannabis products from the illicit market. The aim was to facilitate patient access to adjuvate therapy using medicinal cannabis under the guidance of physicians.
Objective: The aim of this interview study was to elucidate how health care professionals (HCPs) perceive cancer patients enquiring about cannabis medicine (CM), including medicinal cannabis and cannabis-based medicine, for adjuvant palliative therapy.
Design: The program used semistructured qualitative research interviews with thematic analysis.
Setting/Participants: Fifty HCPs took part in the study with 10 informants in each of the following 5 groups: oncologists, palliative care specialists, general practitioners, registered nurses in oncology, and in palliative care.
Results: The informants reported that optional CM as adjuvant therapy was only discussed when initiated by the patient or relatives. Reluctance by HCPs to enter into a dialogue about CM with their patients was mainly explained by the lack of clinical evidence for the use of CM in palliative care of patients with cancer. None of the oncologists had ever prescribed CM, while three palliative care specialists and two general practitioners had issued prescriptions on rare occasions.
Conclusion: HCPs involved in cancer treatment and palliative care are in general reluctant to discuss optional adjuvant CM therapy with their patients. The Danish health care authorities need to address this barrier to ensure that patients eligible for CM therapy are given this option as intended by the launch of the national pilot program.