Updated guidelines will make it easier for doctors in the Australian state of Queensland to prescribe heavily restricted medical cannabis products.
General practitioners can already prescribe Schedule 4 medicinal cannabis products (i.e. those containing cannabidiol) for any patient with any condition if they believe it is clinically appropriate and have obtained the required Commonwealth approval.
However, for medicines also containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that are classified as Schedule 8, the process was more complicated. Practitioners not holding a specialist registration needed approval from Queensland Health as well as approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
That changed last week, with Queensland doctors now able to also prescribe tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol (THC:CBD) products without a Queensland approval. This will significantly reduce the time involved with the approval process and with this red tape out of the way, more doctors may be encouraged to prescribe.
However, there is one exception – according to Queensland Health:
“Queensland approval is also required for those special cases where the patient is considered a drug dependent person and is seeking access to schedule 8 medicinal cannabis.”
Currently, most medicinal cannabis products are unregistered medicines and access is gained via the TGA’s Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Schemes, or through a clinical trial.
Up to the end of March this year, the TGA had approved more than 38,600 SAS Category B applications for unapproved medicinal cannabis products. While that figure represents approvals since 1992, approval numbers have picked up; particularly in the last 12 months.
While most forms of medicinal cannabis can be used in Queensland, patients can’t use smokeable products as Queensland Health says this exposes them to many of the same health risks as smoking regular cigarettes. However, vaporisation devices are a potential alternative if the device is approved.
While there is currently no government subsidy for the costs for individual treatment and cannabis-based medicines aren’t covered under the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme (PBS), sometimes medicines can be acquired free of charge when administered as part of participation in a clinical trial.
Further information for patients on accessing medicinal cannabis in Queensland can be found here.