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This Professor Wrote There Was No Evidence For Using Cannabinoids For Pain. Then He Said The Opposite.

Both sides of the medicinal cannabis debate in Australia are at odds over an interview with the head of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

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The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has denied one of its chapter presidents, associate professor Adrian Reynolds, has contradicted a position statement made in February's Medical Journal of Australia, while appearing in an ABC News interview.

Last week, ABC News ran a story about two Australian women with Crohn's disease whose father faces jail time for growing cannabis that they then juice and drink as treatment.

Associate professor Adrian Reynolds featured in the segment and declared there was "evidence for some benefit for the cannabinoids in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, related neuropathic pain, and non-neuropathic pain". The issue, according to Reynolds, is the effect size is quite small. The “effect size” is a measure of how effective a treatment is – in this case, measuring how well cannabinoids can treat different types of pain.

Experts soon began pointing out on social media that Reynolds had seemingly contradicted the position statement he and two other authors had made in a controversial perspective piece in The Medical Journal of Australia last month.

@rhyscohen @abc730 @MVincentOZ @theMJA @iainsmcgregor This is a problem for opponents of medicinal cannabis. They either don’t REALLY know the literature, or they do, and they’re prepared to lie about it anyway, in the hope that no one will catch on. Either option should rather disqualify them from the playing field, you’d think 🤔

In February, authorities on both sides of the medicinal cannabis debate argued over an opinion piece from the RACP that declared usual medical research standards had not been met when it came to cannabinoids.

"Recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the evidence for the effectiveness of cannabinoids for analgesia show no benefit over placebo in pain reduction and that significantly more patients experience adverse events," read the article.

The piece was called "scaremongering" by University of Sydney professor Iain McGregor, who wrote a response in the Sydney Morning Herald rejecting many of the claims.

When asked how Reynolds could state on ABC News that there was evidence that cannabinoids could be used in the treatment of neuropathic pain when the article written in the medical journal stated the opposite, a RACP spokesperson told BuzzFeed News there was "no contradiction".

"Adrian was quoting from TGA guidance documents in relation to neuropathic pain and this explanation isn’t captured in the quote that was used in the story or the excerpt you’ve provided," said the spokesperson.

However, while it is correct that the TGA's guidance documents do say there is evidence for the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of neuropathic pain, this was not written in the position statement published by the RACP in The Medical Journal of Australia.

When asked if this meant the RACP was saying the TGA guidance documents are incorrect, the spokesperson said the RACP had "nothing further to add".

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at bradley.esposito@buzzfeed.com.

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