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What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a term used to describe any plant in the genus Cannabis, including dried flowers, leaves, seeds, extracts and resins.

The cannabis plant produces a group of chemicals called cannabinoids, one of which is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC). This is the main cannabinoid responsible for the ‘high’ produced by cannabis.

Besides THC, another important chemical found in medicinal cannabis is cannabidiol (or CBD). Though almost identical to THC in terms of chemical structure and medical uses, CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects.

What is medicinal cannabis?

‘Medicinal cannabis’ refers to the range of legal, approved and quality assured cannabis preparations intended for human therapeutic use. This includes pharmaceutical cannabis preparations such as oils, tinctures, capsules and other extracts.

Medicinal cannabis contains specific active components in known amounts and mixtures, which can be carefully controlled, standardised and administered for patient use.

How is medicinal cannabis regulated?

In Australia, the Commonwealth Department of Health regulates medicinal cannabis products through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Office of Drug Control (ODC).

Regulations are in place to ensure high-quality, consistent and standardised medications are available for Australian consumers.

What conditions have received medicinal cannabis approvals?

Medicinal cannabis has been approved for use for over 40 conditions in Australia. However, approvals are granted on a case-by-case basis depending on a patient’s individual situation.

Some conditions for which medicinal cannabis has been approved include:
-Chronic pain
-Anxiety
-Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
-Refractory paediatric epilepsy
-Palliative care indications
-Fibromyalgia
-Spasticity from neurological conditions
-Anorexia and wasting associated with chronic illness (such as cancer)
-and many others.

New applications are currently being studied in clinical trials.

To understand whether you may be eligible for medicinal cannabis therapy, please speak to one or our qualified doctors or our team of care navigators.

Please note, medicinal cannabis cannot be prescribed for the treatment of cancer. However, it may be considered for treatment of symptoms related to cancer or side effects of cancer treatment.

Is medicinal cannabis legal?

Prescribing of medicinal cannabis to patients has been legal since November 2016 throughout Australia. However, individual states also have separate legislation regarding details of approvals and conditions that patients have that may be approved.

Cannabis remains a highly regulated drug in Australia and growing or using cannabis without the relevant licences or authorised prescriptions remains illegal.

Are medicinal cannabis products quality controlled?

The TGA has established quality standards for medicinal cannabis products and all companies who import, manufacture and supply medicinal cannabis products in Australia are required to meet them.

Who can access medical cannabis products?

Any patient with any medical condition can, in theory, be prescribed medicinal cannabis by their doctor, if they believe it is an appropriate therapy.

However, state regulations may limit prescriptions for certain conditions, to certain doctors or for certain forms of medicinal cannabis.

Eligibility to be prescribed medicinal cannabis is assessed on an individual basis by taking into account many factors in a patient’s history. This is best conducted by a doctor experienced in medicinal cannabis assessment and prescribing.

Is cannabis legal for smoking?

No. Patients will not be able to access medicinal cannabis products for recreational use. There are potential harms in the inhaled form, which include carcinogens from smoke and by-products of heat and combustion.

For similar reasons (until there is further research) we don’t currently endorse vaped products.

Is it legal to grow my own cannabis to use for medicinal purposes?

No, people cannot legally grow their own cannabis for medicinal use, even if it has been prescribed for them by an authorised medical practitioner.In most cases, medical cannabis for therapeutic purposes can only be prescribed by a medical practitioner with an appropriate approval. If a doctor is not authorised to prescribe medicinal cannabis products or is not sufficiently familiar with cannabis prescribing, he or she can refer their patient to one of our experienced doctors. Once applications are finalised and approved, all medicinal cannabis products are dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.

How can patients access medical cannabis?

In most cases, medical cannabis for therapeutic purposes can only be prescribed by a medical practitioner with an appropriate approval. If a doctor is not authorised to prescribe medicinal cannabis products or is not sufficiently familiar with cannabis prescribing, he or she can refer their patient to one of our experienced doctors. Once applications are finalised and approved, all medicinal cannabis products are dispensed by a licensed pharmacist.

What is involved in the application?

Once you have been evaluated by a doctor and prescribed a medicinal cannabis therapy, one of our care navigators will assist the doctor in completing the government application form. The form requires us to include the condition being treated, what other treatments have been tried in the past and the name of the GP or specialist that has been treating the patient.

How long will it take to get approval?

The approvals are usually obtained on the same day provide a complete application is submitted including the verified current medical conditions from the patient’s current doctor. We advise patients obtain this to expedite the process.

Where do I get my medicine?

Medicinal cannabis products can be obtained from a registered pharmacy. Our team will work with a pharmacy that is convenient to the patient.

What form does the medicine take?

Medicinal cannabis can come in many forms including capsules, tinctures, oils or sprays. Your doctor will advise you on the appropriate treatment form.

What is the cost of medicinal cannabis?

The cost of medicinal cannabis products can vary from $30 to $100 per patient per week, depending on the nature of the condition being treated, the product required and the dosage of the required product.

Medicinal cannabis products are not currently subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. Some Health insurers may pay a portion of your prescription costs.

Can I drive while being treated with medicinal cannabis?

Patients should not drive or operate machinery while being treated with medicinal cannabis if the product contains THC. Patients should understand the implications for safe and legal driving before taking cannabis therapies.

We wish to advise that patients receiving cannabinoid medication should not drive, work at heights, operate heavy machinery or work in situations where intact reaction times are critical for safety. This is because treatment with cannabinoids can impact response times.

If this is important for you then we recommend discussing this with your doctor to ensure you get the best possible outcome.

In general, medicinal cannabis can be used to treat a wide range of conditions.

However, the following conditions are not compatible with medicinal cannabis, or certain forms of this, including:
– Allergy, or hypersensitivity to cannabis or parts of the medication (e.g., the carrier oil).
– Patients who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding.
– Patients with certain psychiatric conditions (such as psychosis).

Are there any conditions that aren’t compatible with medicinal cannabis treatments?

In general, medicinal cannabis can be used to treat a wide range of conditions.

However, the following conditions are not compatible with medicinal cannabis, or certain forms of this, including:
– Allergy, or hypersensitivity to cannabis or parts of the medication (e.g., the carrier oil).
– Patients who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding.
– Patients with certain psychiatric conditions (such as psychosis).

Are there interactions with other medications?

It is best to seek professional health advice when discussing issues around medications. This includes specifics on medicinal cannabis and interactions with your other medications.

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