Medical cannabis has long been a topic of conversation in Australia. Since the landmark decision to allow medical cannabis to be prescribed back in 2016, there have been more and more rumblings in the general community surrounding the use of, and the morals behind medicinal marijuana.
While the jury is still out on the true efficacy of medical cannabis in relation to specific illnesses, there is credence to consider the substance has something of merit to offer for sufferers. Judging by the number of patients that are able to use approved telehealth companies to access medical cannabis, there is certainly a shift in public thinking.
As medical cannabis is still quite fluid in its status in the scientific and general community – we thought it would be helpful to explore just how much change has occurred in the way of access that showcases a shift in perception and acceptance of the potential benefits that the substance may hold.
The Way Things Were
The grey area that medical cannabis moves through is apparent with many people still debating where the line is, and lawmakers quickly plugging the holes that have appeared since the federal court decision. One of the landmine-laden areas of focus for lawmakers, patients, and doctors to focus on was the issue of access, which is where the Therapeutic Goods Administration comes in.
To access medicinal marijuana products, a patient and their doctor need to go through a fair number of hoops. The substance is classified as Schedule 8 Medicine, which means that the access to, and prescribing of medicinal marijuana is tightly controlled and restricted.
Up until the end of 2021, doctors who were prescribing the substance had to gain approval from several organisations for each specific product before a patient would be able to access it. This means that each brand of medication had to be individually approved by external authorities.
This level of specificity in the requirements for medical cannabis put a strain on prescribers who were understandably inundated with administrative burdens when needing to change a product in the event of adjusting for patients or if there were low supplies of the medication.
Changes Made To Ease Access
The process of prescription for medical cannabis underwent a revamp at the tail end of 2021 however, with lawmakers making significant changes to the SAS (Special Access Scheme) and Approved Prescriber criteria.
The main takeaway from these changes is the organising of medical cannabis products into 5 distinct categories that are based on the level of CBD and THC in them. Instead of having to gain approval for individual products, prescribers now only need approval for a category.
Changes were also made to streamline the processing time and simplicity of the approvals process to lessen the burden on the system and healthcare workers within them. This made it infinitely easier for patients and their doctors to discuss more long-lasting solutions and to have a workaround available in the case of a particular product being out of stock or not available for treatment.
We’re not going to pretend we have correlated data in front of us to make any form of sensible conclusion. However, we will be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the uptake in medical cannabis since the changes were made.
The rise in prescriptions is indicative that more Australians and their doctors seem to be looking toward alternative medications. There is always research going on surrounding the potential effects medical cannabis could have on patients, so we are excited to see the developments as they come.