Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you.
I have a question now about medicinal cannabis. How many patients in Tasmania are currently prescribed medical cannabis products under the Controlled Access Scheme? And what funding is provided within the current Budget for this to continue, to support some of Tasmania's most vulnerable patients?
Mr ROCKLIFF - Thank you, Dr Woodruff. I will get that information for you. I know this is of great interest to you most years.
Our Government made it possible for all Tasmanian GPs to prescribe and all Tasmanian community pharmacies to dispense medicinal cannabis. Like all other Australian states and territories, Tasmanian GPs are required to seek approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to prescribe medicinal cannabis through an online application form. A significant barrier to patients accessing cannabis products is the cost, as these products are not subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and can cost thousands of dollars per year. I am advised that medicinal cannabis products are generally not included in national prescribing guidelines recognised by medical colleges and societies. I understand that for this reason, many GPs may be reluctant to prescribe these products, as any benefit may be outweighed by side effects and costs.
In very specific circumstances, medical specialists in the Tasmanian Health Service can apply for approval to prescribe proven medicinal cannabis products for their patients for subsidised access via the Controlled Access Scheme.
It is possible that additional medicinal cannabis products will be registered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration once evaluated as safe, effective and of sufficient quality. Should additional products be registered by the TGA, they may be investigated for cost effectiveness and potential funding by the PBS, which would make them more affordable.
To date, 20 applications have been approved -
Dr Woodruff - Currently prescribed?
Mr ROCKLIFF - for subsidised access to an unregistered cannabis product through the Tasmanian Health Service.
Dr WOODRUFF - We have arguably Australia's safest, most effective and highest quality medicinal cannabis-making business right here in the state. It's a great irony that some of the poorest people who need this effective treatment have to pay a really high premium for a product which is made here in Tasmania. No comment about the business and the price they're charging. But are you considering working with the local licensed medicinal cannabis producers to provide a more affordable medical cannabis product for Tasmanian patients?
Mr ROCKLIFF - I wouldn't intervene on that process. My advice is that it's the role of the TGA to work through these matters.
Dr WOODRUFF - Okay, so you haven't had any engagement with them. That's a pity.
Your Government entered into an MOU with the New South Wales Government in 2015. That was a promise to engage in medical research and clinical trial of products in relation to medicinal cannabis. Have you provided any funding or undertaken any further work with the New South Wales Government in relation to clinical trials, medical research to improve effective treatments for Tasmanians?
Mr ROCKLIFF - Thank you, Dr Woodruff. I will seek advice from Prof Lawler. Are you aware of such matters?
Prof LAWLER - Sorry, would you please repeat the question for me, Dr Woodruff?
Dr WOODRUFF - I understand that there was an MOU signed between the New South Wales Government and the Tasmanian Government in 2015 in relation to clinical trials and medical research in general around medicinal cannabis. It was an agreement to engage in partnering on those sorts of activities. I am wondering if there has been any funding or work undertaken with the NSW Government in relation to that.
Prof LAWLER - I'm not aware of that, I'm not aware of any activity that has been undertaken on that basis.
Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. Is it possible to check whether that MOU exist, what's the status of that MOU?
Mr ROCKLIFF - I couldn't tell you the status of the MOU off hand at all.
Dr WOODRUFF - Has it expired? Would you be able to check, please?
Mr ROCKLIFF - Yes, we can check.