Ninety-six patients have been prescribed medical cannabis since the law was amended in March this year, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said.

The 96 patients were under the care of 14 doctors, she said, adding the superintendence was also following the cases closely.

Many of these patients suffered from fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. There was no known cure for the condition, but medicinal marijuana could help with the pain, she said.

“We are taking the opportunity to look at following this cohort, so these patients are being followed up,” Ms Gauci added.

“My personal view is that medicine is advancing so much that if we have other things that can help patients, then we need to access it,” she told Times of Malta, on the fringes of the first Medical Cannabis World Forum.

Some may believe the process to get prescribed was “too bureaucratic”, but it was important to assure all checks were made before a prescription was made.

Speaking on Tuesday evening at the forum, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said 10 companies have been approved by Malta Enterprise to set up shop in Malta. Another 10 were rejected, he said.

Read: Medical cannabis for animals in the pipeline

The law stipulates there must first be a letter of intent from Malta Enterprise and then a licence from the Malta Medicines Authority, its head Anthony Serracino Inglott said.

“We look at the premises and ensure they fit according to good manufacturing practices, check for due diligence, and then issue the licence,” he told Times of Malta.

During his presentation at the forum, Prof. Serracino Inglott warned that medicinal marijuana could not be seen as a panacea for all diseases.

While it was wrong to dismiss the medicine as a harmful drug, it was also wrong to say it could cure all illnesses, the Medicines Authority head noted.

He also told Times of Malta the authority had been faced by businessmen and companies who were hoping the licensing process would be rushed.

“The type of pressure we have? The chairman of a business comes to talk to you with experts you bring,” he said. He insists their drug helps cancer patients, and says the patients cannot lose a day.

The authority instead insists it needed to be assured of the evidence of the product’s quality, safety and efficacy, Prof. Serracino Inglott added. “We have to be careful not to rush anything,” he said.

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