Faster Access For (Some) Medical Cannabis Patients In New South Wales

Medicinal cannabis in New South Wales
Image: lowriderza

In the Australian state of New South Wales,  a $6 million statewide advisory service aimed at supporting doctors will (hopefully) help some patients gain access to medical cannabis more rapidly.

Announced by Minister for Health Brad Hazzard yesterday,  the NSW Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Service will start in January 2018 – but it seems it will only apply to patients undergoing palliative care.

The initiative, the first of its type in Australia, involves a hotline to assist doctors in acquiring onshore medicinal cannabis products for their patients and providing expert clinical advice on prescribing medicines.

“NSW has led the country in its approach to medicinal cannabis. However, doctors want more support about whether to prescribe medicinal cannabis, what specific product to prescribe and how best to prescribe it,” said Minister Hazzard.

“This landmark service will give doctors the support and confidence they need to decide if their patients, particularly palliative care patients, may benefit from this type of treatment.”

The NSW Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Service will be based at Hunter New England Health and operate for three years.

The announcement was the first update to be posted on the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation website since nearly a year ago, when researchers began recruiting palliative care cancer patients in Sydney and Newcastle for Australia’s first clinical trial of vaporised cannabis flowers. There have been no further updates posted on that research since.

In New South Wales, the Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme provides guidelines to the state’s police regarding circumstances in which to exercise discretion when considering charging adults with terminal illness who use cannabis and/or cannabis products to manage their symptoms.

For other patients, medical cannabis can only be accessed via a clinical trial, the Authorised Prescriber Scheme or the Special Access Scheme B – all of which involve significant hurdles, including a lengthy form doctors must complete, along with provision of supporting documentation. It’s little wonder then doctors haven’t been exactly lining up – that and the fact the NSW Government has a preference for specialists to be prescribers.

Further details on arrangements in New South Wales can be viewed here.