The process of obtaining medical cannabis will soon become much easier and quicker for patients in New South Wales after both Federal and State Governments decided to slash red tape.
According to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, the government is allowing NSW patients to have immediate and direct access to medical weed by speeding up the application and approval process. Hunt said that the system changes can be expected to take effect within the next few weeks.
With the streamlined process, doctors can get government approval to prescribe medical cannabis within only 36 hours. Previously, this would involve months of waiting for an outcome.
Also, NSW doctors had to apply through both the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the NSW Government before they are allowed to prescribe medical cannabis to a particular patient. With red tape slashed, this is going to be condensed into a single application process through the TGA.
Brad Hazzard, NSW’s Minister for Health and Medical Research, pointed out that a single approval process will allow the NSW Government to focus its AU$21 million medical cannabis fund on world-leading clinical trials.
Hazzard pointed out that the change would really make a huge difference for patients.
He said that “when patients get diagnosed with cancer and start undergoing chemotherapy, they would often feel nauseous and sick. The change will allow them to get a very fast response and to get access to a medicine that can immediately help then with the vomiting and the nausea.” This can also help children who are suffering from fits and seizures caused by a range of illnesses.
Hunt assured, though, that there are still measures in place to make sure that only people who need cannabis will be allowed legal access to the drug.
The move puts an end to a duplication of regulatory requirements, but there are still strong safeguards as far as accessing medical cannabis is concerned, Hunt said.
It can be recalled that medical cannabis was legalized in NSW in August 2016. Patients can avail of the drug with approval based on compassionate grounds. Since then, the NSW Ministry of Health has approved 73 medical cannabis applications. The reality, however, is that an estimated 100,000 Australians illegally use cannabis.
In order to convince medical practitioners that it is okay for them to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients, the NSW government has established a AU$6 million advisory service that enables them to simply make a call to find out how medical cannabis can benefit their patients.
Medicinal Cannabis Council General Manager Blaise Bratter described the government’s move as “fantastic” because it “removes a huge hurdle.” However, the MCC believes that this still does not guarantee that patients can access medical cannabis easily.
According to Bratter, while the announcement was a “welcome surprise,” there’s still more work needed to be done in order to take away obstacles for patients who wish to avail of cannabis treatment. One of these obstacles that patients are facing, according to him, is the fact that cannabis prices are quite high.
Another obstacle, Bratter added, is the fact that education for medical professionals is quite lacking, causing them to be cautious about prescribing the drug.
The MCC said that many doctors still actually treat medical cannabis as a “last resort” medication.
Hazzard addressed this concern by saying that in order to convince medical practitioners that it is okay for them to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients, the NSW government has established a AU$6 million advisory service. This service, which was established a few months ago, enables doctors to simply make a call so they could find out how medical cannabis can benefit their patients.
There are indeed many negatives pertaining to this move if they are not managed appropriately, Hazzard added.