Cannabis: Beaudesert doctor says easier access is of limited benefit

MEDICINE: The state government says medical marijuana will be easier to access thanks to new legislation.
MEDICINE: The state government says medical marijuana will be easier to access thanks to new legislation.

THE state government says seriously ill Queenslanders will have faster access to medicinal cannabis after new laws which make the prescription process easier were passed in Parliament on April 3.

Beaudesert doctor Michael Rice said the news was not something to get overly excited about because the usefulness of the drug and the number of patients locally who would benefit from the new rules were limited.

"This is a medicine introduced as a result of public interest rather than good evidence of medical benefits," Dr Rice said.

"The evidence that cannabis is safe and effective is not very strong, with the possible exception of multiple sclerosis.

"Patients in Queensland who might be approved for cannabis treatment include those with MS, nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy, some types of epilepsy, some patients in palliative care and some patients with long term pain."

Dr Rice said many people mistakenly believed cannabis was a proven treatment for cancer.

"Cannabis is relatively cheap compared to most cancer treatments, so if it was proven effective, hospitals would be using it," he said.

Health Services Minister Steven Miles said the government had repealed the Public Health (Medicinal Cannabis) Act 2016 to introduce new legislation that makes it easier for patients and doctors to access medicinal cannabis.

Mr Miles said under the changes, medicinal cannabis would be treated the same as other drugs of addiction or prescription drugs.

"Our government is committed to improving pathways for Queensland patients to access medicinal cannabis and this new legislation joins some of the most progressive laws in the country," Mr Miles said.

"This law change will significantly streamline the prescription process by removing state-level approval and will ensure patients have access to the treatment they need sooner.

"The Palaszczuk government led Australia in 2015 by enabling doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients and that legislation was vital.

"Now that the treatment has progressed, it makes sense for a nationally consistent approach and for the Therapeutic Goods Administration to take carriage of the prescription process."

Mr Miles said that Australia's domestic medicinal cannabis industry was in its infancy but he believed it had great potential.

"There are several companies working towards having medicinal cannabis products produced locally in Queensland," he said.

"I look forward to following their progress in taking their products to market. This will help improve access for people and reduce costs for these increasingly important medicines."

Non-specialist medical practitioners will still require a state based approval for schedule 8 medicinal cannabis.

The federal government said it would maintain strict controls on the use of unapproved therapeutic goods through the Commonwealth licensing and approval system and it would still be illegal for the Queensland public to grow cannabis for medical purposes.

Dr Rice said the drug was not subsidised on the PBS.

"It will carry a significant out-of-pocket cost to people using it," he said.

"Also people using cannabis medication cannot drive because a safe level of the drug has not been determined.

"People with eligible conditions should speak to their treating doctor about whether this drug might be of benefit to them."