Western Australia’s McGowan Government has announced changes that will make it a little easier for patients in the state to access medicinal cannabis products.
Previously, patients would need a referral to a specialist by a GP in order to access medicines, but now a GP will be able to prescribe where the patient is over the age of 16, isn’t drug dependent and doesn’t have a history of drug use. In those cases, specialist approval will still be required.
“The new changes bring Western Australia closer into line with other states and territories and follow detailed analysis of three years’ worth of data by the WA Department of Health,” said Health Minister Roger Cook.
The WA Government notes that from November 2016 until August this year, just 876 approvals were granted to prescribe medicinal cannabis in Western Australia; where the population was 2,474,410 at the time of Census 2016.
While welcome, this change still won’t make access easy – and medicinal products remain beyond the financial reach of many of those in the west – and across Australia – who could benefit from them.
“Whilst the listing of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is the responsibility of the Federal Government, it is important for the Commonwealth to have a flexible system that expedites affordable access to new and emerging healthcare treatments,” said Minister Cook.
Any doctor in Western Australia will be able to prescribe cannabis medicines if a GP believes it will be of benefit to a patient, but they’ll still need the necessary Government approvals. The doctor will have to seek approval from the TGA for the product prescribed and in the case of medicines containing THC, approval from the WA Department of Health will also be required.
All the hoops jumped through, medical cannabis prescriptions can then be dispensed at any pharmacy in the state.
While it’s still less than an ideal environment, privately held WA medical cannabis company Little Green Pharma welcomed the announcement.
“General practitioners can now prescribe without specialist approval, saving time and money for patients. A very positive step forward,” it stated on Facebook
More information on medical cannabis in Western Australia can be found here, but note that at the time of writing the page was yet to be updated with the recent changes.