Medical Cannabis Finally Listed on Australia's PBS

An epilepsy medication has made history by becoming the first cannabis medicine to be listed on Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

While Special Access Scheme B-Portal approvals for cannabis medications have been steadily climbing each month, cannabis medications have, up until now, been unregistered on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in Australia.

Medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme are partially subsidized by the Australian Government in order to make particular medications more affordable.

This has meant that cannabis medications have, in some cases, been expensive for patients, to the point that they continue to source their cannabis on the black market.

In fact, the high prices of cannabinoid medications were identified as one of the barriers to medical cannabis prescriptions in Australia in 2020 during a senate inquiry.

Now, in a watershed moment for Australia's medical cannabis industry, one particular cannabinoid medication will be available on the PBS, and some of its costs will be subsidized for patients.

The medication listed on the PBS is Epidyolex, a cannabidiol medication that alleviates some of the conditions for people suffering from Dravet syndrome, a rare and treatment-resistant form of epilepsy.

Dravet syndrome begins around the first year of an infant's life and can result in frequent, prolonged seizures and can be fatal for those suffering from it.

According to the Department of Health press release announcing Epidyolex's listing upon the PBS, roughly 116 patients each year will benefit from the subsidized pricing, and were previously paying over $24,000 per year for their medication.

Now, patients will pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 if they have a concession card.

Epidyolex is produced by GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH), a company which has had a history of cannabis firsts.

GW Pharma created Sativex in 2014, a cannabinoid drug designed as a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) which was the first cannabis derivative to receive market approval in any country, and in 2018, the company came out with Epidiolex, the first cannabinoid drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.