The NSW Government has simplified access to medicinal cannabis by introducing a single application process
NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard and Federal counterpart Greg Hunt have announced that the new arrangement will start in coming weeks.
Instead of both the Commonwealth and NSW Health overseeing the approvals, NSW will rely on a single clinical assessment by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
“The NSW Government has listened to the community and to the members of the National and Liberal parties who have advocated in our party room for a more streamlined and compassionate approach,” Mr Hazzard says.
“A single approval process enables a focus on the world-leading clinical trials under the NSW Government’s $21 million invested into medicinal cannabis.
“We are committed to supporting doctors wanting to prescribe medicinal cannabis.”
The NSW Government opened the $6 million Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service in January, the first of its kind in Australia, to provide expert advice to doctors.
Mr Hunt says the streamlined application process means that doctors wanting to prescribe unregistered cannabis medicines will typically get approval within 36 hours.
“This approach by NSW to cut red tape and remove barriers is a template for other States to follow,” Mr Hunt says.
“Strong safeguards remain in place to access medicinal cannabis but this move ends a duplication of regulatory requirements.
“It means NSW will have one of the quickest pipelines to appropriate medical access.”
Currently, the only cannabis medicine on the TGA’s register is Sativex, which also requires a NSW authority for doctors to prescribe it as with any other schedule 8 drug.
Cannabis Access, an online portal for doctors wishing to prescribe medicinal cannabis, welcomed today’s announcement.
Its CEO, Giles Craig, says “we are delighted at today’s news which will make it easier for patients in NSW who may benefit from medicinal cannabis to do so”.
“We would hope that other states will follow the lead set by NSW. We recognise the importance of having appropriate controls in place but the very tight regime to date has meant that many needy patients have sought to self medicate.
“Hopefully these changes will mean more patients will be able to access medicinal cannabis through their doctors and get more appropriate and legal treatment.”
The RACGP also welcomed the decision as an opportunity to move towards a national medicinal cannabis access scheme.
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel says it is time sign-off by state bureaucrats was no longer part of the approval process for access to medicinal cannabis.
“NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard’s changes are welcomed by frustrated GPs and their patients,” Dr Seidel says.
“For too long there has been too much political interference in patient access to medicinal cannabis, which is why we have been calling it ‘political cannabis’.
“Today’s announcement removes some of this interference and brings NSW patients a step closer to an efficient and sensible process for access to medicinal cannabis.
“Patients and doctors should not have to jump through hoops and wait months to access a drug that may improve a patient’s quality of life.”
Dr Seidel says all Australian health ministers must now work together to create and introduce a nationally consistent framework for medicinal cannabis access.
“There is no reason our states cannot commit to a nationally consistent framework,” Dr Seidel says.
“I would like to see this happen at the Council of Australian Government meeting next month.
“It is about time we make this work for all Australians, regardless of where they live.
“Your postcode should never determine your access to appropriate healthcare, and that includes access to medicinal cannabis.”
Dr Seidel says medicinal cannabis is an emerging field and there is still significant confusion about who can access the drug.
“Medicinal cannabis is never the first line of treatment for any medical condition but there is evidence that it might be the treatment of last resort for some patients,” Dr Seidel says.
“If I have a patient, who has tried all standard treatment options without success, I should be able to consider prescribing medicinal cannabis as a viable treatment option without having to wait months.”