Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has published a new series of clinical guides (not to be confused with clinical guidelines) to provide advice and explanations regarding medical cannabis.
The guides were authored by a team from the Universities of New South Wales, Sydney and Queensland, who reviewed clinical evidence for the use of medicinal cannabis that had been published in refereed medical journals since 1980. Also involved in development of the guides were patient and consumer groups, outpatient and primary health networks and other organisations.
Commissioned by the Federal Department of Health, along with New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland state governments, the various guides target different groups – patients, health care professionals, and prescribers and dispensers.
The new guides are available for the following subject areas
- Patient information
- General overview
- Multiple sclerosis
- Palliative care patients
- Epilepsy in paediatric and young adult patients
- Prevention or management of nausea and vomiting
- Chronic non-cancer pain in Australia
The TGA says the guides will be updated as new information becomes available. No doubt the publications will stir up some controversy. For example, some advice states there was little evidence of benefit to advanced cancer patients with chronic pain.
However, the publications do acknowledge medical cannabis may be of benefit in treating or managing MS, paediatric epilepsy and other conditions. The usual sorts of disclaimers are used about “not enough research”, “insufficient information” and so forth. Still, it’s a big change from the tunes being played by government and its agencies in the not-so-distant past and it will be interesting to see how the documents evolve.
“There are a number of clinical trials underway in Australia and globally using medicinal cannabis products and we will update the guidance documents when new evidence emerges,” says the TGA. “We expect the guidance documents will be updated at least every year, or sooner if emerging evidence emerges.”
The guides have the endorsement of the Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis.
As in other countries, medical cannabis is a hot-button topic in Australia. Recently, a group of Senators called on the Federal Health Minister to make medical cannabis access faster and easier; stating the current situation was “untenable”.
Rhys Cohen of Cannabis Consulting Australia believes Australia is heading for a medical cannabis glut, due to the fact that very few patients are authorised to use it compared to the number of companies that will be cultivating it.