Individuals can get access to medical cannabis if they suffer from a chronic medical condition that has not been relieved by standard treatment options, and there is evidence to show that medicinal cannabis may help them achieve better health outcomes. If patients meet these criteria, then a doctor may be able to obtain approval for treatment with medicinal cannabis and issue a prescription.1
Currently, there are three pathways to accessing Medicinal Cannabis in Australia. These are:
1. Accessing medicinal cannabis through the Special Access Scheme
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme supports patients in accessing unapproved medicines in Australia that and for some patients, the state health authority must approve each individual prescription for unapproved medicinal cannabis.1
Generally, the process for approval follows these steps, with minor differences between states and territories:1,2
Step 1 – Patient consults with doctor
A thorough clinical assessment with a doctor is necessary to determine if medicinal cannabis is appropriate for a patient’s conditional and individual circumstances. All medical doctors, including a patient’s regular GP, may undertake the assessment. Some doctors, however, may choose to share the patient’s care (‘shared-care’) with a doctor that is experienced with medicinal cannabis prescribing. There are a number of shared-care clinics in Australia that specialise in medicinal cannabis prescribing. Patients can also find a doctor here.
Step 2 – Doctor applies for approval
Approval required from the TGA (under the Special Access Scheme) and in some special cases, the local health authority. The doctor may choose to apply for approval themselves or refer to a doctor who specialises in prescribing medicinal cannabis.
Step 3 – Doctor provides prescription
Following approval, a doctor may prescribe a medicinal cannabis product for that individual patient. The doctor will arrange the supply of the medication with a pharmacy that is convenient for the patient.
Step 4 – Prescription dispensed from a pharmacy
Pharmacies can order the product only once the prescription and TGA-approval is received as it is illegal for pharmacies to hold stock of unapproved medicinal cannabis medicines.
2. Accessing medicinal cannabis through Authorised Prescribers
A medical doctor may be granted authority by the TGA to become an ‘Authorised Prescriber‘ of a specified unapproved therapeutic good to specific patients (or classes of recipients) with a particular medical condition.
3. Accessing medicinal cannabis through Clinical Trials
Individuals may be eligible to participate in medicinal cannabis clinical trials. Clinical trials that are conducted in Australia are subject to various regulatory controls to ensure the safety of participants.
A list of doctors who are experienced with prescribing medicinal cannabis can be found here and a list of trusted medical clinics specialising in medicinal cannabis can be found here.
For further information contact us or go to https://www.tga.gov.au/access-medicinal-cannabis-products-1
- Australian Government. Department of Health. Therapeutic Goods Administration. Medicinal cannabis products – Patient information. Available online: https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/medicinal-cannabis-consumers-factsheet.pdf [Accessed Feb 2020].
- The University of Sydney. Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics. Accessing Medicinal Cannabis. Available online: https://sydney.edu.au/lambert/how-to-get-medicinal-cannabis/what-products-are-available.html [Accessed Feb 2020].