28 October 2020

The Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis, Communiqué #14

The Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis (the Council) met for its fourteenth meeting, via teleconference, on Wednesday 23 September 2020.

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

Medicinal cannabis clinics

The Council discussed the growing emergence of medicinal cannabis clinics and their use of marketing campaigns to general practitioners. The Council noted the impact that medicinal cannabis clinics were having on the number of applications for approval of medicinal cannabis products through the Special Access Scheme (SAS).

The Council discussed the application process for general practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis products, noting that some prefer to refer patients to medicinal cannabis clinics. Members were advised of the pathways available for patients to access medicinal cannabis clinics noting that communication from medicinal cannabis clinics to a patient’s treating general practitioner can be inconsistent.

The Council agreed to readdress and monitor medicinal cannabis clinics at future meetings.

Compliance activity relating to medicinal cannabis advertising

Department of Health staff provided members with an update on recent compliance activity regarding advertising relating to medicinal cannabis.

The Department advised the Council that it has had a positive response to its compliance activity with multiple providers seeking further guidance from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Regulatory updates

The Council received a detailed update on the status of the regulatory scheme for the cultivation, production and manufacture of medicinal cannabis - including the status of licences, permits and applications.

Members were advised that the new fees and charges framework for medicinal cannabis cultivation, production and research licences and permits was introduced on 15 July 2020 and fees and charges for medicinal cannabis manufacture licences and permits would be announced soon.

The Council noted that work on reforms and changes to the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 and regulations more broadly, as well as administrative processes and systems continues to progress. Members were advised that the Guideline: Security of Medicinal Cannabis and FAQs have been updated to clarify security requirements relating to low-THC hemp.

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 were forecast to reach over 5,000 in September 2020. Of note, over 61,000 prescriptions have been written for unapproved medicinal cannabis products with over 40,000 patients receiving authorisation through the SAS or Authorised Prescriber Schemes.

The Council was advised that the SAS Online System was being enhanced to reflect New South Wales and Queensland legislative amendments made in 2019 and improve the user experience.

The Council was also advised that as of June 2020, Queensland medical practitioners (and medical practitioners based in other states prescribing to Queensland patients) can now prescribe schedule 4 and schedule 8 medicinal cannabis products without the requirement for Queensland Health approval, noting that TGA approval is still required.

Next meeting

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