South Australia Simplifies Medical Cannabis Access (Sort Of)

Cannabis medicine prescription access - South Australia
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Access to cannabis medicines will become easier for some South Australians from today – but still not easy.

The South Australian Government has come under increasing pressure to cut the red tape involving medical cannabis prescriptions. As we mentioned earlier this month, doctors have been able to prescribe medical cannabis since November, but two different approvals were required in order to do so – State and Commonwealth. This has proved to be a major block for doctors, with nearly zero medicines prescribed since last year.

From today, the State approval aspect (section 18a authority)  is not required for patients:

  •  aged 70 years or older
  • who are Notified Palliative Care Patients
  • who are not drug dependent, for regular use for a period of less than 2 months.

“This is about legal patient access and making it easier than most other states to access medicinal cannabis,” said Acting Premier Kyam Maher on the weekend. Mr. Maher said the change could also present new opportunities for cannabis medicine production within the state.

Authorised medical practitioners will still need to seek Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval to supply/import product under either the Special Access Scheme Category B, Authorised Prescriber Scheme or Clinical Trial Scheme.

Only once the approvals are obtained can an authorised party prescribe the product and have it dispensed at a pharmacy.

It’s also important to note that general practitioners won’t be authorised – only specialist medical practitioners recognised by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) as a specialist in the management of the disease being treated will be able to gain this status.

While the announcement is good news and a step in the right direction, obtaining a medical cannabis prescription will still be a long and bumpy road for patients.

Even cannabidiol (CBD) based products, which are Schedule 4, still require approval from the Commonwealth to prescribe/import an unregistered product. Other cannabis medicines are in the much stricter category, Schedule 8.

An overview of patient access to medicinal cannabis in South Australia can be viewed here (PDF).

In other recent related news from South Australia, a Bill to allow the cultivation of industrial hemp in South Australia passed State Parliament on April 13. This is important in relation to cannabis medicines as cannabidiol can be extracted from industrial hemp.