"We must eliminate prejudices about marijuana": Matt Murphy

Matt Murphy regulated these type of drugs for 20 years in the DEA.

The director of the Pharma Compliance Group emphasizes that the use of these drugs should educate doctors, government and industry. The Decree 613 of 2017 provides for safe and informed access for the medical and scientific use of cannabis.

Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Jamaica and Puerto Rico are Latin American countries that have approved the use of medical marijuana to treat diseases such as chronic pain, epilepsy and cancer. A practice that has been recurring in Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Spain, the United States, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom. 

For 20 years, Matt Murphy was dedicated to reviewing drug laws and regulations in the United States. Six years ago his life changed and now he devotes himself to what he used to regulate. He´s the director of the Pharma Compliance Group, where he advises medicine manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies on how to politically and legally comply with managing controlled substances.

In dialogue with El Espectador, Murphy talks about the project that he leads, which he hopes will start to operate in Colombia by the year 2019, with the idea of ??changing the use of opiates for marijuana.

How did you land in Colombia?

A colleague told me that they were looking for someone who had the knowledge about regulations of the medical marijuana industry to be applied here. The company Khiron told me about their expectations and I thought it was a great opportunity to apply the same regulations of the United States.

From your work at the DEA you should know about the country's past in terms of drug trafficking. Why now did you decide to advise a Colombian company that wants to use marijuana for medicinal purposes?

In the 1980s I was in New York and I know that the vast majority of cocaine came from Colombia, so from the DEA we had many relationships with the Colombian police and military, working hand in hand. That´s why I am struck with the idea of changing that image, making sure that the medicine is focused on what is, that it is used legally and that no cartel is part of this.

How does this business work internationally?

The US government has been regulating medical marijuana according to the rules of each state. I think that if the law works there we can make it work anywhere in the world or adapt it to all aspects of the chain. The only differences to be addressed are cultural differences.

How can this cultural change be achieved?

10 or 15 years ago I thought that marijuana was not useful for this, but now it's different. The population can come to understand the benefits and eliminate prejudices about this. At that time no State had done so; but now people have changed. I think we need to use innovative ways to treat pain and cancer. The government and society must change their thinking, and I think that if this works well in Colombia, it can be a model for Latin America. It is a process in which doctors, government and industry must be educated.

But there is a risk of falling into an illegal business.

All those who enter this business must do it in a legitimate way, acting in an ethical and moral way, because that is how the industry works, because if it turns out otherwise it will lose all credibility, which is the most important thing. Many people work in pharmaceutical companies and try to sell their products outside the law. That´s why the best way to avoid it is to have a strong recruitment processes to prevent theft. It can happen with marijuana in Colombia or with oxycodone in the United States.

For example, the addicts go to several doctors in the United States to get more than the allowed level of controlled substances, and then visit several pharmacies to ask for the same, and the only way to regulate it is through their ID card. That´s why in Colombia the challenge is to train doctors to know how to do this, as well as to all parts of the chain. That´s why it is necessary to perform a data analysis to follow up on these products, to have the traceability of who has access to them.

Why should a patient use it?

Many opioid-based drugs are used in Colombia that are very costly and generate health risks, such as a high mortality rate. We try to provide a new option that can meet the patients’ needs. In the United States 15 years ago there was no regulation and physicians acted inadequately when prescribing these opioids, which could have great consequences, such as high addiction rates.

In addition, they are very expensive medicines and some of the patients decide to use other substances, such as heroin, which is not medicinal but it can calm the pain, and this can end up in an overdose. This usually happens a lot, because they are addictive.

Faced with the disadvantages of opioids and the benefits of marijuana, it is decided to evaluate whether for strong back pain it is better to use oxycodone or medical marijuana.

Source: El Espectador