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Health – Medicinal Cannabis

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 6 June 2022

Tags: Medicinal Cannabis, Health

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I am going to move on, basically it was disingenuous to people the way it was framed in the election, there is no doubt about it. But I want to talk about the controlled-access scheme for medicinal cannabis which still requires patients to have cannabis products prescribed through a specialist pathway through the Tasmanian Health Services. The cost of medical cannabis products through the federal scheme can vary from $50 to hundreds of dollars per week depending on the product and the dosage that is required.

Can you please tell me how many patients have applied for medical cannabis through the Tasmanian controlled-access scheme in the period since the rules were updated on 1 July and how many patients were successful in obtaining subsidised medical cannabis prescriptions under the controlled-access scheme in the same period?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Okay, did you say 'apply'?

Dr WOODRUFF - How many applied and how many were successful, since July 2021?

Mr ROCKLIFF - The 1 July 2021 legislative amendments were made to align Tasmania with the national approach of providing access to unproven cannabis products. Tasmanian general practitioners are now able to prescribe unproven cannabis products following the same process for all other scheduled medicines in Australia. Tasmanian community pharmacies are now able to dispense unproven cannabis products as well. Like all other jurisdictions, Tasmanian GPs are required to seek approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration under either the special access scheme or authorised prescriber scheme to prescribe unproven medical cannabis products. The Commonwealth implemented a streamlined online portal which allows for applications from prescribers to be considered by both the Commonwealth and state or territory jurisdiction within the 48 hours of all information being received.

Between 1 July 2021 and 30 April 2022, the TGA approved 83 applications from Tasmanian medical practitioners to prescribe Schedule 4 cannabis products to a specific patient. Between 1 July and 30 April 2022 TGA and the delegate of the Secretary of Health have approved 333 applications from Tasmanian medical practitioners to prescribe Schedule 8 cannabis products to a specific patient. That is the most information that I have.

Dr WOODRUFF - They are different things. One is Schedule 4 and one is Schedule 8t.

Mr ROCKLIFF - That is right; that is what I said.

Dr WOODRUFF - I wanted to know how many people have applied. You said 334 were successful - 83 applications, 334 were successful?

Mr ROCKLIFF - No, I didn't say that.

Dr WOODRUFF - Sorry, I have got confused. It is getting late.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I was talking about Schedule 4 and Schedule 8. A total of 83 for Schedule 4 and 333 for Schedule 8.

Dr WOODRUFF - Were applied for?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Applications.

Dr WOODRUFF - How many were successful?

Mr WEBSTER - They were approved but that is not the Controlled Access Scheme; that is the TGA approval process, which was the change that we made, which has seen the massive increase in the number of approvals.

The Controlled Access Scheme is now a subsidy scheme for those who cannot afford it through the method of purchasing it themselves; they can apply through their specialist for approval through the Tasmanian Health Service.

I only have the total figure since November 2017 which is 32 patients have applied for 19 approvals. We have one application that is currently still deferred so not yet completed.

Dr WOODRUFF - Through you, minister, could I take that question on notice to get the figures for the same period since 30 July?

Mr WEBSTER - Through the minister, my recollection is that that would be two patients in this financial year.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. The TGA shows that there have been 258 000 prescriptions for medical cannabis issued under the SASB scheme since it started in 2017 but only 564 of those were for Tasmania. That doesn't stack up with the proportion of numbers. It is an extremely low uptake of medical cannabis in Tasmania largely, some say, because of prohibitive costs and the increasing cost of living issues.

Minister, will you consider expanding access to the Controlled Access Scheme for all cannabis to make it more equitable for Tasmanians?

Mr WEBSTER - Through you, Premier, the two things in comparing those figures is the Tasmanian figure is only this financial year because our scheme didn't start until four years after the other states and territories. Secondly, the figure we have given you is the number of patients approved whereas the figure you quoted from the TGA is the number of scripts. A patient might have multiple scripts.

Dr WOODRUFF - My question still stands to the minister. Will you consider expanding access to the Controlled Access Scheme so that Tasmanians can have a fair access to that really important drug?

Mr ROCKLIFF - I will seek advice on that matter.

Mr WEBSTER - The Controlled Access Scheme is a subsidised scheme and there is a pathway there and it is well established through GPs, et cetera. There is a pathway to get it in a subsidised way. At the moment, that is not under review.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, would you put your question in writing please.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, thank you.