Under the new regulations, patients living in Queensland will now be able to receive a medicinal cannabis prescription in less than day.
The Queensland Government has relaxed the regulations governing medicinal cannabis, in a move that will significantly expand patient access in the sunshine state.
Previously, the authority to prescribe cannabis was limited to a small number of specialist doctors who had to register with Queensland Health and apply through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for each prescription.
Queensland doctors can prescribe Schedule 4 – cannabidiol (CBD) and Schedule 8 – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or tetrahydrocannabinol: cannabidiol (THC:CBD) products without a Queensland approval. Queensland Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996
However, following the enactment of new legislation, this state-level requirement has been abolished, significantly streamlining the prescription process.
This means that any Queensland GP can now prescribe medicinal cannabis—as long as they have secured the required commonwealth approval—which is expected to slash the current 10-day waiting period to mere hours.
In fact, according to Brisbane-based compounding chemist, Des Harp, prescription approvals from the TGA "tend to come through in a day….even less that a day now."
Under the revised legislation, "any registered medical practitioner" can now prescribe medicinal cannabis products if they feel it is a "clinically appropriate" treatment method, providing the secure the required Commonwealth approval.
The Queensland Department of Health has outlined certain illness that automatically qualify for approval—such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, chronic pain, muscular spasms, and severe epilepsy—although each application will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
"You may apply for other conditions. however, you will need to supply clinical evidence with your application for this to be considered," the Department stated.
Approval from the Queensland Government will also be required if the patient is a drug-dependant individual that is seeking treatment with a medicinal cannabis product.
The announcement comes less than a year after the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) introduced legislation that legalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis—which came into effect on 31 January 2020—although cannabis still remains illegal at the federal level.
A representative from the Queensland branch of the Australian Healthcare Association, Dr Nick Yim, called the decision a "positive" development for patients in need of cannabis-based therapy.
Although, some doctors remain wary of the potential dangers of prescribing cannabis in lieu of more traditional healthcare options, and recommend patients pursue all other treatment avenues first.
"The patients need to undergo and have failed traditional therapy, which do have the evidence backing it," Yim said.
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