13 Feb 2019

The Singapore Government's Position on the use of Pharmaceutical Products Containing Cannabinoids

1. This joint statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health clarifies the Singapore Government’s position on the use of pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids.

 

2. It is important to differentiate between products containing unprocessed or raw cannabis, and pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids.

 

Harmful Effects of Cannabis Use

 

3. To date, there are no studies which have validated the claims of unprocessed or raw cannabis being able to treat medical conditions. An extensive literature review conducted in 2015 by experts from the Institute of Mental Health affirmed, on the contrary, the harmful and addictive nature of unprocessed or raw cannabis. The research team reviewed more than 500 papers in reputable medical journals and other literature by international medical bodies. The team concluded that cannabis consumption is associated with irreversible brain damage, brain shrinkage, and serious mental/psychiatric illnesses.

 

Potential Therapeutic Uses of Cannabinoids

 

4. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. They can be medically administered through pharmaceutical products such as oral solutions and sprays.

 

5. There is some published research, derived from controlled clinical trials, on the potential therapeutic uses of cannabinoids to manage seizures and epilepsy. Such cannabinoid pharmaceuticals need to undergo rigorous scientific review by the Health Sciences Authority before they can be registered for supply in Singapore1. Manufacturers are required to substantiate the safety, quality and efficacy of the cannabinoid pharmaceuticals based on scientific evidence from clinical studies and data on the manufacturing process.

 

Singapore Continues to Take a Zero-Tolerance Position Against Drugs

 

6. The Singapore Government’s stand on illicit drugs, including cannabis, is clear - they are harmful, addictive and can destroy lives, families and communities. Examples of other countries have clearly shown that a permissive attitude towards the use of drugs exacts a high cost on society. Therefore, we have strict laws against the trafficking, possession, consumption, and import or export of illicit drugs, including cannabis and cannabis products.

 

7. Singapore’s comprehensive and sustained approach to tackling both drug supply and demand has allowed us to remain relatively drug-free. In 2018, the number of drug abusers arrested comprised less than 0.1 per cent of our population.

 

8. Our drug control policies are underpinned by evidence and research. Singapore must continue to keep our country drug-free to prevent harm to our population and our society. Cannabis is clearly addictive and harmful, and there is no scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of raw cannabis use. This supports our position that cannabis should remain an illicit drug. At the same time, we will continue to allow safe and controlled access to evidence-based medical treatment options.

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1 There are strict frameworks in place for the supply, prescription and dispensation of controlled drugs used for medical purposes in Singapore. All such drugs must be prescribed by a Singapore doctor, and must be prescribed for the medical condition registered with the Health Sciences Authority. 

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