When it comes to the medical cannabis industry, the Australian Government tends to be quite very secretive. However, as of last week, they officially released the number of Australians who have been prescribed medical cannabis.
To gain access to medical cannabis as a patient, you must apply for the Special Access Scheme (SAS), which is overseen by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). There are two primary categories of approvals for medical cannabis.
- Category A approvals – made to grant medical cannabis to Australians with a terminal illness.
- Category B approvals – made to Australians who have a medical condition that can be treated with medical cannabis.
Once patients have a SAS approval, they can be prescribed specific drugs that are not listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Currently, the only medical cannabis on the ARTG is Sativex.
Most Australians who have a prescription for medical cannabis products have a category B approval. As of July 1st, over 50,000 category B approvals have been made with 86% of those approvals made within the past twelve months. A breakdown of those 43,028 approvals can be seen below.
Of these 43,028 Australians, the majority are taking medical cannabis to treat one or more of the following ailments:
- Refractory paediatric epilepsy
- Neuropathic pain
- Spasticity from neurological conditions
- Nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy
If this trend were to continue for the remainder of 2020, an additional 22,783 applications will be approved, totalling over 72,783 Australians. However, keep in mind that these numbers do not account for the number of people who regularly fill their prescriptions.
How many Doctors can prescribe medical cannabis?
For a Doctor to prescribe a patient a medication that is not included in the ARTG, the Doctor must become an ‘authorised prescriber’ for that medication. To become an authorised prescriber, doctors must acquire specialised training.
As of July 2020, there are currently 84 doctors who are authorised prescribers.
For more detailed information about accessing medical cannabis in Australia, please see this post.