The Australian Senate has passed a bill, which calls for an assessment of barriers in patient access to medical Cannabis. The inquiry, tabled by the Greens, will assess the regulatory and financial barriers surrounding the sector.
Senator Richard Di Natale, leader of the Greens, called for the inquiry last week. However, it has received opposition from the coalition government. Australia is governed by a coalition between two political parties – the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia, with the Greens representing an opposition party.
Senator Di Natale appealed for the committee to look into “current barriers to patient access to medical Cannabis in Austalia”.
The Senate Committee will focus on areas of the medical Cannabis sector, including:
- the effectiveness of the current regulatory system through the Therapeutic Goods Agency (TGA) Special Access Scheme, Authorised Prescriber Scheme and clinical trials;
- the suitability of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for subsidising patient access to medicinal cannabis products;
- the interaction between state and territory authorities and the Commonwealth, including overlap and variation between state and territory schemes;
- Australia’s regulatory regime in comparison to international best-practice models for medicinal cannabis regulation and patient access;
- availability of training for doctors in the current TGA regulatory regime for prescribing medicinal cannabis to their patients;
- education of doctors in the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), and the appropriateness of medicinal cannabis treatments for various indications;
- sources of information for doctors about uses of medicinal cannabis and how these might be improved and widened;
- delays in access, and the practice of product substitution, due to importation of medicinal cannabis and the shortage of Australian manufactured medicinal cannabis products;
- the current status of the domestic regulated medicinal cannabis industry;
- the impacts on the mental and physical wellbeing of those patients struggling to access medicinal cannabis through Australia’s regulatory regime;
- the particular barriers for those in rural and remote areas in accessing medicinal cannabis legally;
- the significant financial barriers to accessing medicinal cannabis treatment;
- the number of Australian patients continuing to rely on an unregulated supply of medicinal cannabis due to access barriers and the impacts associated with that.
The motion for the inquiry was passed in the Senate, despite the express objection of the Coalition government, who argue that it “wilfully ignores the progress made to date.”
Senator Jonathon Duniam, of the Coalition, said:
“The Morrison government continues to make it easier for doctors to access medicinal cannabis products more rapidly while maintaining strict safeguards for individual and community safety.”
In addition, the government claims that the “there is no barrier to applications to the Patient Benefits Scheme”, and that applicants must, by law, be considered on medical, not political, grounds.
Finally, the matter was referred to the Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry, with completion expected by 12th February 2020.