Lun. Oct 26th, 2020

Submissions for an Australian Senate inquiry into current patient access barriers to medicinal cannabis close today.

Announced in November 2019, the wide-ranging inquiry is delving into issues including the appropriateness of the current regulatory regime, delays in accessing products and will also examine international best practice models for patient access.

At the time of writing, eleven submissions had been noted; including from:

  • Northern Territory Government
  • Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia and Multiple Sclerosis Australia
  • United in Compassion
  • Medical Cannabis Users Association of Australia (MCUA)

The (brief) submission from the NT Government revealed an interesting and disturbing fact:

“Uptake has been slow within the NT with only one prescription dispensed for a Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis product since the change in legislation,” the submission states.

However, it notes the NT Department of Health is aware of  “a number” of other residents of the Territory accessing medicinal cannabis products via interstate specialists. The NT has a population of around 246,000.

United in Compassion, co-led by Lucy Haslam, was scathing of the current medical cannabis situation in Australia in its submission, stating:

“Even the fact the Government opposed this inquiry is politically arrogant and extremely disappointing. The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme in Australia operates at the expense of the wellbeing of patients.”

The MCUA also judged current arrangements harshly.

“Now almost 4 years since changes to the Narcotics Act, there are still NO Australian grown and manufactured products regularly or readily available to Australian patients at affordable prices,” it says.

A patient satisfaction survey carried out by MCUA found 86% of patients were somewhat (16%) or very dissatisfied (69%) with the ease of access, adequacy and affordability. While 45% of 200 respondents said they received approval, they were unable to fill the script because of cost.

Submissions to the inquiry can be viewed and downloaded here.

The reporting date for the inquiry was originally 12 February 2020, but on 2 December 2019, the Senate granted an extension until 26 February 2020. The inquiry is being led by Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who has been very critical of Australia’s current approach to medicinal cannabis.

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