On Wednesday, the Australian Government announced more cash to support clinical trials involving medical cannabis.
As part of a package of new grant opportunities worth more than $86.5 million for important medical research, $3 million has been earmarked for trials to look further into the benefits of medicinal cannabis for managing pain, symptoms and side effects experienced by cancer patients.
The $3 million follows an earlier $3 million for the same purpose that was invested from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) in October last year. The MRFF is a $20 billion long-term investment aiming to transform health and medical research and innovation.
“Investing in health and medical research is a key priority of our Government’s Long Term National Health Plan,” said Minister for Health, Greg Hunt. “Research of all kinds is essential to improve our prevention of disease, health care and treatments, and to make our health system work better for all Australians.”
The new funding for cannabis research in relation to cancer is of course welcome, but raises the question of how much more needs to be done. Plenty has been carried out both here and overseas, not to mention the reports from many cancer patients on how cannabis has helped them with symptom and chemotherapy side-effect management. What’s probably really needed now is rapid improvements in access to cannabis medicines. Many Australian cancer patients are still sourcing medicines from the illicit market due to regulatory hurdles and cost.
The Morrison Government has been eager to be seen supporting medicinal cannabis – and not just on the clinical research front. A number of significant medical cannabis cultivation projects have been awarded Major Project status in the past couple of years, including three earlier this year. While the status doesn’t guarantee success of a project, it does help cut through some of the red tape.
In August last year, Minister Hunt said the Federal Government will prioritise medical cannabis projects granted Major Project Status and wanted to make things as streamlined as possible for companies to invest and do business in Australia in order to help grow the economy and create new jobs.