An overview of medical cannabis access for patients and medical professionals
Any medical doctor can prescribe medicinal cannabis in Australia with the approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the relevant State or Territory’s Health Department.
Patients may be eligible to trial medicinal cannabis if they have a chronic medical condition where conventional treatment options were determined to be unsuitable, and there is evidence to support the use of medicinal cannabis for the condition.
Most medicinal cannabis products are unapproved products in Australia as they do not appear on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). This means that you can’t simply go to a doctor, obtain a prescription, and fill it at a pharmacy as you would with conventional registered medicines.
Instead, the TGA, the governing body that regulates access to all medicines including medicinal cannabis, have created pathways for doctors to access medicinal cannabis products for their patients, where clinically appropriate.
Australian registered medical practitioners who would like to access unapproved medicinal cannabis products for the treatment of appropriate patients may choose to do so through the Special Access Scheme (SAS) or the Authorised Prescriber Scheme. Alternatively, doctors can suggest their patients for a clinical trial or refer them to a doctor more experienced with medicinal cannabis.
For prescribing medicinal cannabis to a single patient
For prescribing medicinal cannabis to multiple patients (with similar indications)
Referring patient for a clinical trial, if available
Referring patient to a doctor more experienced in prescribing medicinal cannabis
The medical practitioner has two ways of applying for unregistered medicines:
To source a drug for a single patient, a doctor can use the Special Access Scheme.
The doctor can apply to the TGA to become an Authorised Prescriber (AP), allowing the doctor to prescribe an unregistered medicine to a whole class of patients. For example, a paediatric neurologist might apply to the TGA to become an AP to prescribe medical cannabis products to children with epilepsy.
Some patients may be eligible for clinical trials investigating medicinal cannabis products.
Information on the clinical trials taking place at the Lambert Initiative can be found here.
A list of all Australian medicinal cannabis clinical trials can be found by searching 'cannabis' on the Australian/New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry.