Funding boost for medicinal cannabis research

cannabis medicinal

Government to invest $3 million to examine the benefits of medicinal cannabis for management of pain, symptoms and side effects in cancer patients

The Federal Government is investing $3 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to examine the benefits of medicinal cannabis for pain, symptom and side effect management for cancer patients, the Health Minister has announced.

“There have only been a limited number of well-designed clinical studies on medicinal cannabis, and we need to increase the evidence base to support medical professionals to make their decisions,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt in a press release.

“Our government is committed to ensuring a safe, quality supply of medicinal cannabis to Australian patients, but only when it is prescribed by a medical professional.”

The $20 billion MRFF was created in the 2014-15 Budget to complement the ongoing funding of the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Access to medicinal cannabis has been ramping up over the past few years in Australia.

Up to 30 September 2019, the TGA has approved over 17,300 Special Access Scheme (SAS) Category B applications for unapproved medicinal cannabis products.

A breakdown of the number of SAS Category B approvals by month for the previous 12 months is provided below:


Number of SAS Category B approvals

October 2018


November 2018


December 2018


January 2019


February 2019


March 2019


April 2019


May 2019


June 2019


July 2019


August 2019


September 2019


Australian patients may also be accessing unapproved medicinal cannabis products outside the SAS, via the Authorised Prescriber scheme or in a clinical trial⁠—these are not captured in the SAS figures provided above.

As of 30 September 2019 there are 56 Authorised Prescribers.

Sativex (nabiximols), an approved medicinal cannabis product included in the ARTG, is also available in Australia and its use is not included in these statistics.

The first licence for an Australian company to grow and harvest medicinal cannabis was granted in March 2017, and this has now gone up to 78 licences, says Minister Hunt.

“The medicinal cannabis industry has the potential to make a significant contribution to exports, employment and economic growth, particularly in rural and regional areas.

“To support further growth in the industry, applicants with Major Project Status will be given priority to receive medicinal cannabis licences through the Office of Drug Control,” he says.

Listen to our AJP Podcast on medicinal cannabis here

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