SwiftDoc is able to prescribe TGA-approved medicinal cannabis to patients where appropriate through a special access scheme. To find out more about medicinal cannabis in Australia, and the types of conditions where it may be useful in treatment, and to discuss your own personal circumstances make an appointment (selecting medicinal cannabis from our services menu).
In 2016, the Australian Federal government legalised access to medicinal cannabis (or medicinal marijuana). Along with these changes came a rise in the number of Australian medical trials of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals, to assess the products for suitability for various medical conditions, and to understand further their benefits and side-effects.
Of the hundreds of chemicals contained in a cannabis plant, there are a couple of particular interest to researchers of medicinal cannabis are a couple of the chemicals in the cannabis plant. One is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and another is cannabidiol (or CBD).
Trials suggest that both of these ingredients may possibly provide relief for people with chronic or terminal illnesses. There are of course numerous ongoing clinical trials adding to our knowledge about the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis, and it is expected that over time our understanding of the uses and benefits of medicinal cannabis will grow considerably.
It’s both! The terms medicinal marijuana and medicinal cannabis tend to be used interchangeably. The term “medicinal cannabis” is derived from the scientific name of the cannabis plant, and refers to the chemicals within the plant know as cannabinoids. The term medicinal marijuana on the other hand, has been in common usage for many years in the US, where medicinal marijuana products have been prescribed since it was first legalised in the state of California in 1996.
In essence though, either term refers to pharmaceutical products that have been derived from the cannabis plant. In the production process, useful cannabinoids are extracted and refined in controlled and regulated conditions. The products are carefully formulated to maximise the medicinal effect while minimising any possible side-effects. The use of pharmaceutical products derived from the cannabis plant are legal in Australia, whereas the use of the cannabis plant in its natural form is not.
In order to prescribe medicinal cannabis products, medical practitioners need to request approval from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA). The use of medicinal cannabis is on the rise in Australia, as illustrated by a growing number of approvals issued by the TGA since legalisation in 2016. By the end of 2019, 28,000 approvals had been issued. That number was expected to rise to over 70,000 by the end of 2020, and the number of medical practitioners seeking approval for their patients is on the rise too.
Studies show that by far, the most approvals given by the TGA are for the treatment of chronic pain. This is followed by anxiety, cancer pain and symptoms (but not cancer itself), neuropathic pain and epilepsy.
*It must be stressed that everyone is different. You and your doctor together can determine whether medicinal marijuana is right for you, and may depend on factors such as your personal medical history and the conditions you are being treated for. *
According to the TGA approvals for medicinal cannabis prescriptions have been given for conditions such as:
• Nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy, • Some types of epilepsy, • Chronic pain, • Palliative care, • Cancer pain, • Neuropathic pain, • Spasticity from neurological conditions, • Anorexia and wasting from a chronic illness (such as cancer).
Some study findings suggest that medicinal cannabis products may be effective in some patients for pain, spasticity, sleep and bladder function.
As we mentioned above, clinical trials are happening all the time to determine if medicinal cannabis can assist patients with other conditions.
All States and Territories of Australia allow for doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients (with the appropriate approvals), but to learn more about the laws in your own state it is best to check with the relevant state health department. Because of the need for your GP to apply for approval to the TGA to prescribe medicinal cannabis to you, the process is a little more arduous than issuing a regular prescription, but your GP will be able to explain this process to you during your consultation.
Currently most medicinal cannabis products are not listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and generally are not covered by private health insurance. The cost of your medication will vary depending on your prescription and dose, and the condition being treated. It is best to check with your private health insurer to see if you are entitled to any rebates for your prescription.
As always, the best first steps are to make an appointment to discuss your individual needs and circumstances with a GP. In your appointment we may ask you questions to help us understand if a prescription for medicinal cannabis is the right course of action for you. If it is, your GP will need to seek approval from the TGA to prescribe the product to you. If approved, you’ll receive a prescription that you can then fill at a pharmacy to begin your course of treatment.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation, [What is medicinal cannabis?].(https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/medicinal-cannabis/ "Medicinal cannabis") Accessed October 2021.
Canstar, Medicinal cannabis in Australia. Accessed October 2021.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, Medical Marijuana. Accessed October 2021.
Healthdirect, Medicinal Cannabis. Accessed October 2021.
Hospital and Healthcare, The promising medicinal benefits of cannabis. Accessed October 2021.
NPS Medicinewise, Prescribing medicinal cannabis. Accessed October 2021.
Queensland Health, Queensland Government, Medicinal cannabis treatment. Accessed October 2021.
Queensland Health, Queensland Government, Medicinal Cannabis: what is it and is it different to marijuana? Accessed October 2021.
RACGP, Use of medicinal cannabis products. Accessed October 2021.
This website does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately dial Triple 0 (000).