A step-by-step guide for medical practitioners on how to help their patients access medical cannabis in Australia:
STEP 1: Evaluate Patient's Medical Condition
As a medical practitioner, you should assess whether medical cannabis is a suitable treatment option for your patient's medical condition. It's recommended that you first consult with the patient's usual treating doctor, GP or specialist, who has a good understanding of the patient's medical conditions and access to their medical records.
STEP 2: Choose a Suitable Product
If you determine that cannabinoid therapy is an appropriate treatment, you need to choose a suitable product that meets the patient's medical needs. You should consider factors such as product availability, ongoing costs to the patient, and whether it's a 'Schedule 4' medicine (Prescription Only) or 'Schedule 8' medicine (Controlled Drug).
STEP 3: Check Product Information and Obtain Patient Consent
You can obtain detailed product information, including the price of products, by contacting the Medical Cannabis Council of Australia (MOCA) directly. You also need to obtain the patient's consent to apply for federal and state approval via the Special Access Scheme (SAS) Category B pathway.
STEP 4: Submit Application to TGA and State Health Department
You'll need to submit an application to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the relevant State Health Department for approval to access medical cannabis for your patient. The application should confirm the patient's medical condition and relevant medical history, outline which medications for the patient's condition have been prescribed and are not working or have adverse effects, and include a treatment plan and monitoring plan.
STEP 5: Obtain TGA and State Approval
Once you receive approval from both the TGA and the State Health Department, you can prescribe medicinal cannabis to the patient if you're located in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, WA, SA or NT. For Schedule 8 medicines, in the ACT and Tasmania practitioners must take a second step to obtain prescribing approval, which is to submit a second application to the state health department.
STEP 6: Provide Approval Certificate to Relevant Authorities
For Schedule 8 medicines, you'll receive an approval certificate that must be provided as part of a separate application to the relevant State Health Department. For Schedule 4 medicines, no State Health Department approvals are required.
Once the patient receives approval from both the TGA and the State Health Department, they can obtain their prescribed medical cannabis from their choice of pharmacy. The pharmacy will need to provide the relevant Health Department approvals to the wholesaler, who will then release the prescribed product to the pharmacy for dispensing to the patient. Hospital pharmacies may supply for in-patients on a copy of a medication chart order.