In Ecuador they are not available in a pharmacy. Nor do doctors – who prescribe oils, creams and tinctures based on cannabis – do not want to expose themselves and prefer anonymity. This is because the therapeutic use of these compounds is not allowed.
But the discussion around ‘opening that door’ is again valid. On Wednesday of last week, the Legislative Health Bureau approved the chapter on drugs containing narcotic and psychotropic substances. It is part of book 2 (there are three in total) of the Draft Organic Health Code (COS) and therefore will be included in the second debate in the Plenary.
The first occurred in May 2017. In the articles, which passed the filter of most commission legislators, it is said that the Ministry of Health will authorize physicians to prescribe medicines that contain controlled substances, including cannabis. And they will determine what diseases will be treated with them.
In addition, that Portfolio will authorize establishments to dispense and sell the compounds. In the country, the legislation goes behind the reality, since for about 20 years the patients get, clandestinely, ointments, oils and mother tinctures, etc. Pedro (protected name) asks to be “invisible” in this note. But he says that he and his colleagues come to be like ‘pharmacies’, because through them the interested parties get what they prescribe neurologists, oncologists, traumatologists and naturopaths, who are part of a large chain.
They are already produced in the country, he responds, with raw materials that are brought from abroad. They believe in the efficacy of cannabis against chronic pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, vitiligo and other illnesses that require inflammation.
Also, that can help those suffering from diseases such as cancer. But there are no investigations that certify it. Along these lines, Omar Vacas, a researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE), says that Ecuador is advancing as Uruguay, Chile, Peru and Colombia did to approve the medicinal use of cannabis. “This process is necessary, but hurried,” he says, due to lack of studies. In the country, he explains, there are 3 200 native medicinal plants and introduced in Ecuador, one of them cannabis, which can be combined with others.
Melly Valbuena, 51, reports that she felt as if the bones of her spine were going to break, after an aggressive breast cancer that was detected in 2012. She suffered metastases in the pancreas, liver, bones and blood. The pain was unbearable and he looked for alternatives. In 2015 her husband asked for help on social networks and several people communicated. They gave him the plant and the oil, which he takes twice a day. The lady says that the medicine generated vomit, anxiety and insomnia. The oil keeps it well, although it is not easily found.
Know sites where a bottle, which lasts a month, costs USD 25. “We do not smoke marijuana,” he says in reference to those who oppose what has been endorsed so far by the Board of Health. The approval of the Plenary and then of the Executive is still lacking.
Blanca Ugarte, ex-PSC, does not support her Health colleagues. “Cannabis does not cure, it is a palliative for the ravages of a chemotherapy or to attenuate the tremor of the Parkinson’s.” In addition, it clarifies that it opposes a part of the articles, which establishes that the sanitary authority will grant licenses and regulate the sowing, cultivation, harvest, industrialization, storage and dispensing for medicinal purposes.
“I am opposed to Ecuador being a producer,” she stresses. The Ministry of Health -opine- should not grant permits but the Interior. Asked if the North border cannot be taken care of, the Agency of Control and Sanitary Vigilance (Arcsa) will watch that a planting is not used for another purpose.
Guilds on the other hand say that Ecuador would be in tune with the world. Víctor Álvarez, president of the College of Physicians of Pichincha, a subsidiary of the National Federation, believes that you can “take advantage of treatments with cannabis derivatives and offer a legal model to patients who already use them”.
With the current legal framework, whoever prescribes those products commits an infraction. Álvarez cites what happened in the USA with the Epidiolex. It is the first drug based on cannabidiol, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in June of this year. The Epidiolex is for patients from 2 years old, with epileptic seizures by Dravet and Lennox Gastaut (syndromes).
José Pillajo, architect, was diagnosed with colon cancer more than a year ago. Three months ago, at 64, he left chemotherapy aside and treated with cannabis oil and other natural medicines.
Magdalena Cáceres, his wife, places a couple of drops of oil under his tongue, every day. It is part of his natural treatment with vitamins. Other patients advised him to go to the Mayu Alternative Medicine Center. There, among other things, they prescribe oil, 250 milligrams of cannabidiol. That takes away the pain, it deflates and inhibits the growth of cancer cells, says Julio Vicencio, a naturopathic center physician. Although in the country you cannot certify that. A PUCE ethnobiologist, points out that there is no legal basis behind the researchers to generate a base that would allow knowing the types of plants, number of cannabis farmers, the properties and ways of applying cannabis.
They are not treatments, he says, that can work with everyone. Account that there are cases of people with tuberous, multiple and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, who improve with cannabis and extracts of cat’s claw, for example. (I)