NSW Increases Access To Cannabis Medicines

Prescribing medical marijuana in New South Wales
Image: BigStock

As of today, doctors in the Australian state of New South Wales will have a greater number of medical cannabis preparations to select from when prescribing for patients.

Just days after the state received Federal government go-ahead for its pilot cannabis cultivation program, NSW Premier Mike Baird announced changes in regulations governing the prescription of medicines.

“People who are seriously ill should be able to access these medicines if they are the most appropriate next step in their treatment,” Mr Baird said.

“This change increases the options available for doctors as it means a broader range of cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed – while we continue our evidence-based research looking further into the role medicinal cannabis can play.”

There will still of course be significant hoops for doctors to jump through. All prescription applications will first need to be assessed by the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and by a committee of medical experts on behalf of NSW Health before doctors can prescribe an unregistered cannabis-based product. How long such a process would take isn’t clear.

This application will require it be accompanied by clinical evidence relating to the use of the product being appropriate for the condition.

“It will also be expected that approved standard medicine or non-medicine treatments have already been utilised for the patient,” states information on the NSW Health web site. “The product must be legally produced and manufactured to appropriate quality standards.”

Another gotcha is the medical practitioner applying is expected to be a specialist in the condition being treated.

However, the 4-page application form (PDF) isn’t particularly daunting.

While far from a free-for-all, it’s another significant move towards medical marijuana gaining acceptance in both medical and regulatory spheres.

“Patients wishing to investigate the use of cannabis-based medicines will need to talk with their doctor about suitability,” said NSW Minister for Medical Research,  Pru Goward

“There is still a lot to learn about safety and efficacy for different patient conditions and groups which is why we are investing $21 million to further world leading evidence-based research into the safe and effective use of cannabis-based medicines.”