Qualifying Australian patients wanting to access legal cannabis medicines may face hefty prices, preventing many from acquiring medications they so desperately need.
While processes are being fast-tracked for bringing some products in Australia, it appears the medical cannabis import scheme announced last month may have a very nasty sting in its tail.
Under the initiative, a store of imported products will be made available to Australian patients suffering various conditions. However, a Courier-Mail report claims some patients in Queensland have been quoted up to $USD 26,000 a year to access medicines; which works out to around $93 a day in Australian currency at current exchange rates.
If correct, it’s a huge and cruel blow to those who built their hopes up and could benefit most from the scheme; with many of these patients struggling financially as is.
As for the potential of subsidies, the issue appears to be a political hot potato. Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt have pointed to each other to pick up the tab.
Minister Dick has requested cannabis medicines be supported through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, but Minister Hunt says only Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved medicines can be added to the PBS.
If subsidies are not provided or some other means of reducing the cost implemented, it may force patients to continue sourcing medical cannabis via illegal means. Aside from continuing to live under the threat of prosecution, a stress seriously ill people simply don’t need, this also puts them at risk of acquiring sub-standard products.
Ironically, the importation scheme may boost illegal sourcing dramatically, particularly now medicinal cannabis and its benefits are now becoming more widely reported across the country as a result of the scheme – and demand is increasing.
Regarding the “black market” label sometimes used to describe illegal sourcing, it’s really not a good blanket term as it conjures up terrible images of seedy individuals in dark alleys. While those people certainly exist, there are some brave souls who care little for profit and more about helping fellow Australians who need these medicines. They are hardly criminals in that sense, yet they risk fines and/or jail.
There are also respected businesses overseas that are suppliers to some Australians, and fully legal in the locations from which they operate – it’s the Australian end of things where the problems lie.