NSW doctors can now write up a script for medicinal cannabis for patients who are seriously ill.
Previously you could only access cannabis-based medicines through clinical trials, but with the new regulatory changes, the drugs can now be prescribed for patients who've exhausted standard treatment options.
‘Medical marijuana which was previously available only for clinical trials, is to be accessible to all after doctors get the license to prescribe it to seriously ill patients who have exhausted all treatment options.’
"People who are seriously ill should be able to access these medicines if they are the most appropriate next step in their treatment,"NSW Premier Mike Baird said. Mr Baird said "this change increases the options available for doctors as it means a broader range of cannabis-based medicines can be prescribed, while we continue our evidence-based research looking further into the role medicinal cannabis can play."
The Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment Regulation will allow doctors to apply to the NSW Health Board to prescribe cannabis-based products that are not currently on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
Among the potential uses for medical cannabis is the treatment of arthritis, epilepsy, glaucoma, schizophrenia, Crohn's disease and sleep disorders. Medicinal cannabis can be taken orally, smoked, used as an oil and in some cases injected.
Medical cannabis is legal in 20 US states, while recreational cannabis can be sold legally in Colorado and Washington states.
Medical Research Minister Pru Goward said that NSW was regulating cannabis-based medicines in the same manner as any other emerging medicine. "Patients wishing to investigate the use of cannabis-based medicines will need to talk with their doctor about suitability," Ms Goward said. "There is still a lot to learn about safety and efficacy for different patient conditions and groups, which is why we are investing $21 million to further world-leading ... research." Ms Goward added.
Australian Medical Association NSW spokesman, Associate Professor Saxon Smith said that doctors will need approval from both the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration and NSW Health before they can prescribe an unregistered cannabis-based product. "It is an important step forward to look after patients in terminal situations or suffering side effects from chemotherapy, so it adds to our arsenal," he said.
Anecdotal reports say that in the absence of legal cannabis-based medicine, many patients have been forced to break the law by sourcing cannabis oil and medicine on the black market.
The NSW government gained approval to grow cannabis under license from the federal government as part of research into the best way to cultivate the plant. The drug will be grown at a high-security facility under strict protocols.
Earlier this year, about 330 people in NSW took part in a clinical trial, testing medicinal cannabis for chemotherapy patients. Premier Mike Baird said the drug, a cannabis tablet manufactured by Canadian company Tilray, was only for people suffering nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. "I think all of us who know people who are in the battle for their lives, to have some form of relief to give them strength, to give them energy, to stare down cancer and to take it on - well, that's what this is all about." the Premier added.
This trial, which was announced in February, was the third of its kind in NSW, the other two were for terminally ill patients and children suffering from severe epilepsy.