MPs respond to CQ candidate's medicinal marijuana campaign
MEDICINAL marijuana has proven itself an excellent treatment for a variety of medical conditions including One Nation candidate Torin O'Brien's chronic pain which he's had to endure as a result of a professional career as a Muay Thai fighter.
A few weeks ago, Mr O'Brien candidly revealed to the Morning Bulletin that he found medicinal marijuana provided him with sustainable pain relief in a way that addictive pharmaceutical drugs couldn't, and he wished to remove the "lazy drug addict" stigma surrounding its use.
Mr O'Brien was determined to ensure the drug was more readily available, cheaper and possibly added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to assist those suffering medical conditions in the community.
Both Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry were approached to see what their governments were doing towards making medicinal cannabis more readily available for those who needed it.
Queensland Government addresses medicinal cannabis issue
Mr O'Rourke said the Queensland Government was continuing to deliver on its commitment to streamline access to medicinal marijuana for Queensland patients who need it.
"The State Government does not support using recreational or unregulated medicinal marijuana as there is no guarantee that these products are safe and effective," Mr O'Rourke said.
"We have made changes that have significantly shortened the wait time to access medicinal marijuana for those who need it.
"All specialist medical practitioners (including specialist general practitioners) are able to prescribe schedule 8 medicinal marijuana without the need for a Queensland approval."
He said Queensland pharmacists no longer needed a state-based approval to dispense medicinal marijuana and researchers no longer required a Queensland approval to conduct a clinical trial.
"A trial of medicinal cannabis for children with severe treatment-resistant epilepsy has been underway since 2017 at The Queensland Children's Hospital," he said.
A Queensland Health spokesman said on June 18, the Queensland Government made changes to legislation so that all Queensland medical practitioners could now prescribe schedule 4 and schedule 8 medicinal marijuana products without the requirement for a Queensland Health approval.
"A Queensland Health approval is still required when the prescribing is a schedule 8 medicinal marijuana product for a drug dependent person," the spokesman said.
"Medical practitioners must also meet Commonwealth requirements that apply.
"Queensland was the first state to provide clinical guidance on the prescribing of medicinal marijuana to support medical practitioners and has contributed to the development of the Commonwealth Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) guidance documents.
Despite the increasing use of medicinal marijuana in the community, the spokesman said its use remained controversial as the science for its use for most medical conditions still lacked critical consensus, leading to a reluctance to prescribe medicinal marijuana.
They said the cost of medicines including medicinal marijuana products was determined by suppliers not by the Commonwealth or State governments.
"The Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme (PBS) is a Commonwealth responsibility," they said.
"A number of Queensland based entities have obtained or are in the process of obtaining the relevant Commonwealth licences and permits, for medicinal marijuana research, cultivation and manufacture."
The spokesman said there was no leeway for a person to operate a vehicle while being medicated with medicinal marijuana.
"In Queensland it is an offence to drive a motor vehicle or to operate heavy machinery while being treated with a product containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)," they said.
"There is zero tolerance for driving with THC present and any trace of THC in a person's system can be penalised and may result in a criminal conviction.
"The need to ensure the safety of the driver and user of medicinal marijuana, and other drivers on the road is paramount.
"Where patients wish to use medicinal marijuana for their medical condition, they should discuss the impact on driving requirements with their medical practitioner when deciding on the best medicinal marijuana product to use."
They said the Federal Government maintained strict controls on the use of unapproved therapeutic goods through the Commonwealth licensing and approval system and it remains illegal for the Queensland public to grow marijuana for medical purposes.
"The Queensland Government is committed to ensuring that access to medicinal marijuana is streamlined, appropriate and evidence-based to protect the health and safety of all Queenslanders," they said.
Federal government addresses medicinal marijuana issue
According to Australian Government, it their policy to regulate medicinal marijuana products as medicines in Australia, subject to the same regulatory framework and strict standards of safety, quality and efficacy as all other medicines.
The state and territory governments and the Commonwealth Department of Health all play a part in regulating medicinal marijuana products to ensure their safe use.
More than 30,000 individual patients are estimated to have accessed medicinal marijuana in total.
About 40 per cent of access was estimated to have been via prescription from Queensland based prescribers.
Ms Landry said under legislation, new medicines, including medicinal marijuana, can only be subsidised through the PBS if the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), an independent, expert advisory body, makes a recommendation in favour of listing.
"The PBAC is legally required to take into account the clinical effectiveness, safety and value for money of the medicine compared to other available therapies," Ms Landry said.
"Should the PBAC recommend the listing of a medicinal marijuana product on the PBS, the Government would implement this as a matter of priority.
"However, pharmaceutical companies are private entities and cannot be compelled by the Government to make these applications."
To date, she said there was only one medicinal marijuana product approved for use by the TGA in Australia.
"That product is Sativex®, which is approved by the TGA for symptom improvement in patients with moderate to severe spasticity due to multiple sclerosis who have not responded adequately to other anti-spasticity medication," she said.
She said all other medicinal marijuana products were considered 'unapproved' and are made available to patients through alternative access pathways such as the Special Access Scheme. "The Australian Government has no control over the price a supplier charges for their products supplied in the private market," she said.
She noted that Queensland was subsidising the cost to some patients through access programs and clinical trials.
"The Government encourages the continuation and expansion of existing state and territory Compassionate Access Schemes for medicinal marijuana products at the state/territory level," she said.
"The cost of medicinal marijuana products appears to be falling over time.
"In March 2020, a study conducted by FreshLeaf Analytics showed lower costs for most Australian medicinal marijuana products with an average 17.4 per cent price reduction compared to the third quarter of 2019."
On the issue of improving accessibility to medicinal marijuana, she said a report on the recent Senate Inquiry into current barriers to patient access to medicinal marijuana in Australia was released in March 2020, and included a number of recommendations to improve patient access.
The Government was currently considering these recommendations.
She said any Australian registered medical practitioner, including general practitioners (GPs), can apply through a streamlined portal called the Special Access Scheme (SAS) or the Authorised Prescriber scheme to prescribe unapproved medicinal marijuana products to their patient where they believe it is appropriate.
"To further assist doctors in determining whether prescribing medicinal marijuana is appropriate and beneficial for their patients, the TGA has compiled clinical guidance documents to provide information about the current state of clinical evidence," she said.