WA Doctors Still Facing Delays When Prescribing Medicinal Cannabis

The Director of the St Francis Medical Group, David Cooper, told 6PR Mornings that WA doctors are still being bogged down by red tape when trying to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients.

Earlier this month the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) handed down its final decision in favour of down-scheduling low dose cannabidiol (CBD) preparations from Schedule 4 to Schedule 3, which means the drug will soon be available for purchase from Australian pharmacies over the counter.

Under the ruling, individuals will be able to purchase a maximum of 150 mg per day—which is a significant increase on the previously proposed limit of 60mg—while the implementation date has been brought forward to February 2021.

We are experiencing some pinch points, or barriers within the WA Health, delays in responses, and that is affecting our ability to treat some of our patients. The doctors have to apply to state health if the treatment is a schedule eight or a controlled drug treatment. There is a lot of medications that are schedule eight, which means they are potentially a drug of addiction or they are essentially a controlled drug.St Francis Medical Group Director, David Cooper

The decision to increase the maximum daily dose has generated considerable excitement in the cannabis industry—after being made in response to a series of public submissions—along with the advice of the Joint Committee of the Advisory Committees for Medicines Scheduling and Chemicals Scheduling.

In November last year the West Australian government also pushed through a revision to the state's medicinal cannabis laws that allowed GP's working in WA to prescribe the drug to patients without the need for a referral from a specialist.

However, the Director of the St Francis Medical Group, David Cooper, believes that WA doctors are still facing significant red tape when trying to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients.

In fact, in a recent interview with radio broadcaster 6PR, Cooper explained that many patients are still facing waiting periods of up to six weeks.

"The state health process is too heavy handed," Cooper said.

"A lot of West Australians are having to venture to the East coast to access their medicinal cannabis, and yet there is clinics like ours in Subiaco ready and willing to provide legitimate and accessible supply."

"If our doctors want to provide THC every one of those prescriptions needs to go through WA Health. If we can expedite supply and get our policy right, I think we can reduce risk to public health."

"I think the policy is out of step, certainly out of step with WA sentiment and the rest of the country."

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.