Cannabis (5)
A variety of medicinal marijuana buds in jars are pictured at Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group dispensary in West Hollywood, California US, October 18, 2016. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

Acquiring permission for prescribing medicinal cannabis to patients is proving to be immensely difficult for doctors. The State Government is facing intense pressure to adopt methods to make access to the drug easier.

According to Adelaide Cancer Centre oncologist Brian Stein, the main hurdles doctors have to overcome include lack of data surrounding how much cannabis should be prescribed to individual cases and an inability to know exactly what doctors are prescribing. A “very keen” patient, who had approached the doctor to get a prescription of the drug, died before the paperwork could be completed.

Stein could have become the second medical professional in South Australia to receive permission to treat a patient with medicinal cannabis if he was accredited under Special Access Scheme B. Earlier this month, a doctor from SA received go-ahead from Health’s Drugs of Dependence Unit to prescribe the drug to a cancer patient.

According to Draft SA Government guidelines, only specialists will be authorised to prescribe the product to patients. While the government has not laid out any specifications, the doctor must likely be an oncologist. Three medical professionals in total have applied to SA Health to be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

According to Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Kyam Maher, the Government is expected to soon announce a formal “patient access pathway,” which will provide further details on the guidelines for prescribing medicinal cannabis. “While patients in South Australia can already access medicinal cannabis as a result of federal legislative changes which came into effect in November, the State Government is working to make sure there is greater clarity and understanding of patient access pathways,” Maher said, speaking with In Daily.

A medical professional is required to obtain an approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the state Drugs of Dependence Unit in order to be authorised to prescribe the drug. Stein said there were a “number of sustentative issues” with the application process.

To get the approval from TGA, one needs to fill out a Special Access Scheme B form, according to a spokesman for Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. “States and territories have their own legislation around access to medicinal cannabis, including what type of practitioner can prescribe,” the spokesman said.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks highlighted the difficulty that patients face to have access to the drug, saying several South Australians have resorted to illegal channels to obtain medicinal cannabis. “Creating a more consistent approach to patient access to medicinal cannabis is something the minister raised at COAG Health Council last week,” she said.