What is Medicinal Cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis is any product that contains cannabis or components derived from the cannabis plant which is prescribed by a doctor to treat or relieve the symptoms of a medical condition.
Medicinal cannabis products generally include one or both of two major cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC and CBD are the two main cannabinoids responsible for most of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. There are other components of cannabis being researched for possible therapeutic use.
What is the Difference between Medicinal Cannabis and Street Cannabis?
In Australia, medicinal cannabis products are controlled drugs, regulated by the Commonwealth Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Office of Drug Control (ODC).
Unlike cannabis that is grown and sold illegally, medicinal cannabis’ components and dose are more controlled and consistent. This means the effects of medicinal cannabis are more predictable — distinctly different to street cannabis which is uncontrolled and can be contaminated with mould or solvents.
Who can Prescribe Medicinal Cannabis?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is an Australian Government regulatory body which allows a doctor to prescribe medicinal cannabis if a patient has not responded to conventional medicine or if the current treatment has unbearable side effects.
Within the Department of Health’s framework, the TGA needs to approve each patient’s medical cannabis prescription on a case-by-case basis and does this via a Special Access Scheme (SAS) application, submitted by a doctor on the patient’s behalf. The SAS application includes clinical evidence and reasons for treatment, dosing routine, and length of treatment. For more information please visit https://www.tga.gov.au/medicinal-cannabis-guidance-documents
For patients in the Northern Territory, the prescribing doctor doesn’t need to obtain a NT authorisation before prescribing medicinal cannabis. However, for NT patients, if treatment is successful and the person intends to continue with the use of cannabis for medical reasons for more than two months, ‘notification’ to the Chief Health Officer is required.
For prescribers in the NT, pathways available include: the Special Access Scheme which is used for an individual patient’s approval; and the Authorised Prescriber Scheme, which is a broad-based approval dependent on the prescriber’s clinical expertise (which is difficult in the NT as clinical trials are interstate).
For more information on accessing medicinal cannabis in the NT please view the Northern Territory Government Medicinal Cannabis Access Information Sheet.
How much does Medicinal Cannabis Cost in Australia?
The Commonwealth Government does not fund medicinal cannabis products under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This means that NT patients need to pay the full cost of products themselves. The cost of cannabis medicines will vary by patient depending on the type of product prescribed and dosage. Patients also need to pay for related medical costs and appointments.
Even though there is no government funding for medical cannabis under the PBS, from May 2021, Australians living with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy, have access to Epidyolex® (CBD), the first medicinal cannabis drug to be subsidised by the Australian Government under the PBS. Epidyolex® as well as Sativex® (nabiximols; THC and CBD), which treats moderate to severe spasticity in multiple sclerosis, are two cannabis medicines which have been registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
To make pain management treatments more accessible and affordable for Australian patients, Cannatrek has a number of initiatives in place with doctors, medical practitioners and pharmacists. For a small number of patients, Cannatrek may be able to reduce costs through clinical trials or concession-based discounts. Although this is often not the case. To find out more, make contact with the Cannatrek team.
Who is Eligible to use Medical Cannabis in Australia?
In Australia, buying and using medical cannabis is legal under certain circumstances. The prescribing doctor needs to justify to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) why a patient needs medicinal cannabis. To be eligible, a patient needs to have had the condition for at least three months and must have tried conventional medical treatment which either didn’t work or resulted in unbearable side effects. Patient eligibility is not limited to a specific list of conditions or symptoms. The TGA decides whether to approve the prescription to grant patient access.
How is Medicinal Cannabis delivered in the Northern Territory?
Pharmacies across all Australia’s States and Territories are permitted to dispense medicinal cannabis products subject to a doctor’s TGA approved prescription as long as the pharmacy meets the Department of Health’s requirements. In the Northern Territory however, medicinal cannabis pharmaceuticals aren’t always stocked by pharmacies. This means that the dispensing NT pharmacy may need to order the prescribed product from interstate.
How Medical Cannabis Works and its Benefits
Medical cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and is a considered therapy option for many Australians today. With hundreds of different active compounds shown to help a range of different medical conditions, plant-based therapies like medicinal cannabis may be suitable for some health conditions where other treatments have been unsuccessful. Some of the health conditions include sleep and insomnia, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy, PTSD, palliative care, endometriosis, cancer pain and anxiety.
Is Medicinal Cannabis right for you?
Even though research into the efficacy and effects of medicinal cannabis for certain treatments is increasing, medicinal cannabis as a therapeutic treatment option is still in its infancy. Patients should always speak to a general practitioner or healthcare professional for advice on their unique circumstances before making any decisions around treatment options.
How is Medicinal Cannabis Used?
Medical cannabis is available in a number of formats with suitability for medicinal use dependent on an individual’s needs. Methods of consumption include: breathing in vaporised dried cannabis flower and vape concentrate; ingestion or sublingual (under tongue) by swallowing cannabis oil (like CBD oil), oral spray or softgels; and topical application where cannabis oils are added to lotions, gels or creams.
Some people use a combination of options for their treatment plan. The response time to feeling the effects of a medical cannabis product depends on the method of consumption, dosage, concentration and individual biological factors. Medicinal cannabis should not be smoked.
Why Choose Cannatrek?
Backed by medicinal licenses and six years of operation, Cannatrek is a technology-driven Australian company committed to improving patients’ quality of life through medicinal cannabis treatment. Borne out of the philosophy that plant-based cannabis therapy can be an alternative therapy option for people not achieving results from traditional medicine, Cannatrek relies on a trusted ecosystem of suppliers, health practitioners and pharmacists to offer Australian patients relief and enhance wellbeing, in major cities like Darwin, Sydney and Melbourne to regional areas spanning ACT, QLD, NSW, VIC, and across all States and Territories.
Have more questions? Contact one of our consultants at Cannatrek today.
For further information about medical cannabis in Australia and accessing medicinal cannabis products in the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania, please speak to a health professional, a medical practitioner, or contact Cannatrek directly on 1300 122 662. For general enquiries email email@example.com or for access-related enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org.