Medical cannabis: who has access?
Sarah Wiedersehn | AAP | 22 June 2017
IS MEDICAL CANNABIS LEGAL IN AUSTRALIA?
Yes, medical cannabis is now a controlled substance rather than a prohibited one under the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA).
It was rescheduled from Schedule 9 (prohibited substance) to Scheduled 8 (controlled substance).
The federal government approved the reclassification, which came into effect in October 2016.
This gave doctors a pathway to prescribe to patients.
CAN PATIENTS ACCESS MEDICAL CANNABIS?
Yes, but it is reasonably difficult.
Medical cannabis is not approved by the TGA as a registered good, therefore there is a lot of paperwork to apply for access.
If patients are looking to access medical cannabis they must use other pathways such as the Special Access Scheme.
States and territories can independently make access available to specific types of patients.
Doctors also have to apply to become an authorised prescriber.
To date, fewer than 150 people in Australia have been given access to medicinal cannabis.
WHO CAN APPLY FOR MEDICAL CANNABIS?
The TGA doesn't specify which illnesses might be eligible for special access to medicinal cannabis.
Doctors need to be able to show the drug would be of benefit for a patient.
THE EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF MEDICAL CANNABIS
Most agree that the evidence is still not in on medical cannabis.
Very few randomised double blind placebo control studies - the gold standard in medicine - have been conducted to test the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis.
There is a body of evidence around the world that suggests it can benefit numerous conditions. These include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic neuropathic pain
- Nausea from cancer-related chemotherapy
- Parkinson's disease
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