10 September 2020

The Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis, Communiqué #13

The Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis (the Council) met for its thirteenth meeting, via teleconference, on Tuesday 30 June 2020.

The meeting was chaired by Professor James Angus AO. The Council represents professional organisations, specialist areas of the medical profession and patient groups.

Department of Veterans' Affairs Framework for considering requests to fund medicinal cannabis

Representatives from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) addressed the Council and delivered a comprehensive presentation on the DVA Framework for considering requests to fund medicinal cannabis for veterans.

Members discussed the available data including the numbers being prescribed, products used, adverse outcomes, drop-off and continuation rates. Members noted their interest in the data and how it may progress in the future. Members agreed to invite representatives from DVA to present an update at a future meeting.

National Drug Driving Working Group

Assistant Commissioner Mike Keating, Queensland Police and Professor Jeremy Davey, University of the Sunshine Coast addressed the Council and provided members with a detailed overview of the National Drug Driving Working Group (NDDWG).

The Council noted that Australia is regarded as a world leader in drug driving enforcement and deterrence. Members discussed the use of medicinal cannabis and positive THC testing during roadside screening. The Council noted the NDDWG's recommendation that jurisdictions support current legislation and testing operations for THC, cognisant of legislative developments in this area, along with the potential impact on drug driving and drug driving legislation.

The Council agreed to consider an invitation to present to the NDDWG.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Guidelines for Pharmacists relating to the destruction of medicinal cannabis products

The National Vice President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia presented members with a summary of the Guidelines for Pharmacists relating to the destruction of medicinal cannabis products.

The Council noted the Guidance resulted from concerns that pharmacists had voiced regarding the destruction of Schedule 8 substances.

Regulatory updates

Department of Health staff provided members with an update on the testing of medicinal cannabis and recent compliance activity regarding advertising relating to medicinal cannabis. The Council also received an update on the status of the regulatory scheme for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis. Members were advised that implementation of the new fees and charges framework for medicinal cannabis cultivation, production and research licences and permits was scheduled for 15 July 2020.

The Council noted that although Parliament was in recess at the time of the meeting, work continues to progress on the legislative reforms recommended in the Review of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 conducted by Professor John McMillan AO.

Special Access Scheme (SAS) Online Portal

The Council received an update on the Special Access Schemes (SAS), including an overview of data regarding patient access to medicinal cannabis products via different access pathways. Members noted that approvals had reached over 4000 in a single month. Of note, over 46,000 prescriptions have been written for unapproved medicinal cannabis products with over 29,000 patients receiving authorisation through the SAS or Authorised Prescriber Schemes.

Next meeting

The Advisory Council agreed to meet again in September 2020 (by teleconference).