The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called for consistency in rules concerning access to medical cannabis products in Australia.
While Australia has national legislation in place for medical cannabis, an extra layer exists in its various states and territories. This makes accessing cannabis medicines even more complex, adds to the cost of regulation and delays medicines getting into the hands of patients.
The RACGP has published a table indicating the differences between the states here.
The body wants to see an end to the “highly bureaucratic, time-consuming and expensive” situation, stating that all health ministers must agree to a single-step approval process that acts as submission portal to all relevant authorities.
“While the regulatory and prescribing regime must be robust to ensure only appropriate clinical access within the confines of the legislation, patients and doctors should not have to jump through hoops and wait months to access a drug that may improve a patient’s quality of life,” said RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel.
Switching to a single-step process is already under way in New South Wales, where it was announced last week that only a single clinical assessment by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will be required. This won’t make accessing medical cannabis easy (or cheap) by any means, just a little easier and faster when it comes to approvals.
Dr. Seidel also said GP’s should also be able to prescribe products, rather than just “specialists” or having to consult them, pointing out that in fact GP’s are specialists and are the first port of call for patients seeking medical assistance.
“If I have a patient, who has tried all standard treatment options without success, I should be able to consider prescribing medicinal cannabis as a viable treatment option without having to wait months,” he said.
The College says introduction of its recommendations will help ensure that a patient’s welfare is at the centre of what it says is a difficult and rapidly evolving area of medicine.
The RACGP seems to have warmed a little towards medicinal cannabis in the last couple of years. Previously, it considered it to be a treatment of last resort as it believed there was little high quality evidence to support its use at that time.
Note: the RACGP shouldn’t be confused with the RACP – Royal Australasian College of Physicians – which also recently released a statement relating to medicinal cannabis.