Changes could mean unsafe cannabis imports

Health Minister and doctors criticise Senate decision on medicinal cannabis

Tuesday’s Senate vote on medicinal cannabis access removes safeguards against unsafe product imported from overseas, they warn.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says he is consulting with the TGA on the decision.

Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale moved that the Therapeutic Goods and Other Legislation Amendment (Narcotic Drugs) Regulation 2016 be changed to restore the rights of terminally ill patients to access medicinal cannabis products through the TGA SAS Category A process.

Mr Hunt described the vote’s success as “deeply concerning and disappointing”.

“Mr Shorten and others who have joined him should reflect upon the fact that they have acted in defiance of the advice of the TGA, in defiance of the advice of the leading medical practitioners, in terms of the AMA and the College of GPs, even in defiance of the views of Palliative Care Australia,” Mr Hunt said.

“There is already a safe, legal way to access medicinal cannabis in Australia, 133 patients have been prescribed that.

“We opened the door to ensure that there were four major shipments that have already been delivered, so medicinal cannabis, where the doctors believe it can be prescribed, in a safe form, is available.

“This decision today, however, by Mr Shorten and others removes those safeguards.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration could not be clearer that it is a potential risk, not just to health, but to lives.

“It is, unfortunately, a reckless and irresponsible decision. I would call upon them to reflect upon that. We cannot accept this and I have asked the Therapeutic Goods Administration for advice.”

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon warned Sky News’ Ashleigh Gillon that concerns remain about the evidence to support medicinal cannabis, as well as the possibility of drug diversion.

“What the Minister already knows a lot about and what the jurisdictions have seen is that doctors are reluctant to prescribe medicinal cannabis. This is no different to any other new drug, new technology, new operation; we want to be assured of the safety, assured of the effectiveness.

“So you’ve already got a situation where doctors are querying exactly how effective medicinal cannabis is. If you in any way put any doubt in their minds about the safety, you’re simply not going to see it prescribed by many doctors.”

He said doctors are not concerned about addiction, or too concerned about major potential side-effects, in the palliative care setting but “we remain concerned about potential diversion into the general community.

“And let’s not forget, we’re talking about cannabis, we’re talking about a substance that, used in the form it’s used by most people, is a major source of mental illness in our community. It’s absolutely essential that we’re assured that whatever’s being brought into the country, whatever’s being brought in for prescription is safe – even if we’re talking about its use in the palliative care setting

“The Australian community would be outraged if prescription medication was rushed in, if someone said that it was okay to use… Why would we possibly have a different rule when it comes to cannabis?”

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) also called for improved consultation with end-of-life care experts after yesterday’s decision.

“As the specialty medical society for practioners in palliative medicine, ANZSPM is concerned that the decision to pass the disallowance motion will create access pathways for unregistered medicinal cannabis products and will reduce oversight by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and clinicians in State and Territory Governments,” said ANZSPM President, Dr Carol Douglas.

“That oversight provides key safeguards for both patients and practitioners.”

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  1. Carnage#13

    You know nothing Hunt!

    • Ron Batagol

      Before “rushing to judgement”, I suggest you take a deep breath snd re-read the opinions of experts in the field as highlighted in this articke,and the reasons that they express these concerns!

      • Carnage#13

        Lol, maybe you need to do your own research and stop believing the government scaremongering. Also, some spelling lessons might help too.

  2. Peter Brush

    Great to see this happen! Hunt has shown that he is very ignorant of the facts- no death from cannabis has EVER been recorded. Further, in all the jurisdictions I know of , Licensed Producers have to have their products independently tested and are labelled as to %THC , % CBD and often for the major Terpenes . A great deal of research has been done in Israel in particular into the benefits of THC, CBD and the 300 terpenes found in cannabis. look into brain trauma treatment for example. doctors and politicians are very poorly educated in this area in Australia.

    • Carnage#13

      They are educated, they all know.
      My GP for one is against it, but will freely write a script for any pharmaceutical you want.

      • Ron Batagol

        One last reinforcement of my previous comments.
        I have no wish to engage and respond to the irrelevant nitpicking and ridiculous politically partisan comments, but with reference to my previous post,PLEASE read the last 2 paras carefully, attributed to comments by ANZSPM!

        • Carnage#13

          Stop commenting, I know what I’m talking about.

    • Sve3t

      Hmm that old chestnut, no death from cannabis has ever been recorded (except when they have). A quick search through UptoDate gives this:

      A 2016 40-year longitudinal cohort study of 50,373 Swedish male military conscripts found a significant, albeit small, association between heavy cannabis use (>50 times) at baseline (age 18 to 19 years) and overall mortality (hazard ratio 1.4, 95% CI 1.1-1.8) [28]. The association was similar in those with and without a history of psychotic disorder, suggesting that schizophrenia was not a major factor driving the increased mortality. The only specific causes of death significantly associated with heavy cannabis use were infections, cardiovascular, and injuries of unknown cause, all of which showed a positive dose-response relationship with intensity of baseline cannabis use.

      Manrique-Garcia E, Ponce de Leon A, Dalman C, et al. Cannabis, Psychosis, and Mortality: A Cohort Study of 50,373 Swedish Men. Am J Psychiatry 2016; 173:790.

      Yes that means that you are 40% more likely to die by the time you are 60 if you have had greater than 50 joints in your life (not to mention 400% more likely to develop a mental illness).

      The reason that no good doctor or pharmacist is recommending the use of cannabis at this point is that the positive studies are all small and of poor quality and the evidence is very conflicting. If we applied this logic to any other medication then we would be strung up so why is cannabis any different?

      Please note before replying that I am not saying that there are no potential benefits to medical cannabis, I am just clarifying that there is significant risk and this needs to be weighed up against potential benefits.

      • Peter Brush

        thanks for that reference. the conclusions of the study are worthy of stating here “Conclusions:
        The results suggest that individuals with an early history of heavy use of cannabis are at a higher risk of death than those with a history of no use of cannabis. Although the authors adjusted for several confounders at baseline, the results should be interpreted with caution because of a lack of information on confounders in the period after conscription.” This does not seem to gel with your statement about 40% more likelihood of death? ie you are making a much stronger statement than the study concludes. But i grant you that much more specific research is required. The ‘old chestnut’ remains intact! Increased mortality rate does NOT mean deaths specifically from the agent, as you know.( and the conclusion cautions. It could simply indicate other things are going on such as an association of some other kind, such as those willing to try (illegal?) cannabis may be more likely to carry on other risk taking behaviour, which is the reason for the higher risk of death.
        You seem to show your bias and ignorance? of facts however, in the following paragraph. There are many many GOOD doctors and pharmacists recommending the use of cannabis in countries other than Australia. It is not yet happening in Australia, simply because Australia is well behind the curve as far as education within the medical system in regards to the endo-cannabinoid system. medical cannabis has been available and in use in Israel and Canada for example since the 1990’s. There is a lot of great research coming out of Israel in particular- look into Dr Raphael Mechoulam’s lifetime’s work for example-
        a further few points- you ponder “If we applied this logic to any other medication then we would be strung up so why is cannabis any different?” i reply that you (the medical profession does apply this logic, over and over and over) many prescription drugs are on the market that kill people on a daily basis and new drugs are regularly introduced onto the market, where (in effect) population based ‘trials’ occur during the use of the drug- because that is the nature of the industry now. so i turn your statement around and ask you why is cannabis being treated so differently than drugs that kill many people daily , such as opioids when cannabis is a very viable alternative, that is being used widely in other jurisdictions but does not kill! There is no known over-dose! Opioid death rates have dropped in Colorado since cannabis was legalized. motor vehicle death rate and alcohol consumption deaths have also dropped.

  3. Ronky

    A sad triumph of emotive populism over science and rationality.

    One doesn’t expect any better from the Greens whose strategy is to exploit vulnerable patients to use this as the thin end of the wedge to later try to force through legalisation of all drug abuse.
    But Shorten’s sheer bloody-mindedness in directing ALP senators to vote for this, apparently for no other purpose than to create chaos and blame it on the government, is disgraceful.

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