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  • How medicinal cannabis may benefit an increasing number of Australians

    Author: Health Times

At the end of last year, the Australian Department of Health Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced they would down-schedule low-dose medicinal cannabis products. This change will allow approved products to be sold to customers without a prescription by a pharmacist.

While there are currently no approved low-dose medicinal cannabis products, this is expected to change as manufacturers produce medications that meet the TGA’s Schedule 3 criteria.

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Medicinal cannabis has been legal in Australia at a federal level since 2016, however prescriptions require case-by-case approval from the TGA. The availability of medicinal cannabis over the counter may enable those with symptoms which have proven difficult to treat to more easily seek relief.

What is medicinal cannabis?

Medicinal cannabis is any cannabis-based product prescribed to treat the symptoms of a medical condition.

There are two main active compounds (cannabinoids) found in cannabis:

The first is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive compound most people associate with cannabis. While it may produce a euphoric ‘high’, THC can also be used as an analgesic for chronic pain, an appetite stimulant, or to assist with sleep onset, nausea, glaucoma or muscle spasticity.
The other compound, cannabidiol (CBD), is non-psychoactive and is believed to offset some of the negative side effects of THC, such as anxiety, paranoia or memory impairment.

Both compounds may be prescribed to treat a variety of conditions. Medications may incorporate THC and CBD individually or in tandem. Whole cannabis products are believed by some to be more effective due to the ‘entourage effect’, by which the many organic compounds within cannabis support one another for a greater health outcome.

Medicinal cannabis products are available in a range of formats, and the absorption, potency and effects of the medication may vary according to the format and the individual patient. Formats include the dried flower, vape concentrate, oil, oral spray, soft gels, creams and lotions.

What are the benefits of medicinal cannabis?

Research has found that medicinal cannabis can be an effective treatment for a broad range of symptoms and conditions , particularly where traditional medicines have often proven ineffective.

To date, the TGA has approved medicinal cannabis products to help patients experiencing:

  • anxiety
  • nausea and vomiting, including that related to chemotherapy,
  • epilepsy and seizures,
  • palliative care indications
  • cancer pain
  • neuropathic pain
  • muscle spasticity from neurological conditions
  • anorexia and wasting associated with chronic illness.
How can patients in Australia access medicinal cannabis?

Until cannabis-based medications that meet the Schedule 3 requirements enter the market, patients must seek a prescription for medicinal cannabis through their doctor or medical team.

It’s also worth noting that higher dose CBD and THC-based products are not covered by the TGA’s decision and must still be accessed by prescription.

Patients seeking a prescription for medicinal cannabis must have a condition diagnosed by a doctor and experience symptoms that traditional treatment methods have failed to alleviate without unacceptable adverse side effects.

Where the patient’s doctor believes they may benefit from medicinal cannabis, the doctor must submit an SAS-B application to the TGA along with their clinical justification and the patient’s relevant medical history.

The TGA will then approve applications on a case-by-case basis. While a successful application cannot be guaranteed, patients may have a greater chance of success where their symptoms match those for which the TGA has previously approved applications.

Up to December 31 2020, the Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved over 85,000 SAS-B applications for unapproved medicinal cannabis products .

If you feel you may be eligible for medicinal cannabis through an SAS-B application, but your doctor is uncomfortable discussing or prescribing medical cannabis, Cannatrek Access links patients to qualified independent doctors. These doctors have experience with medicinal cannabis and will help the patient make an informed decision about the suitability of this treatment.

1 The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.
2  Therapeutic Goods Administration, December 2020,
3  Therapeutic Goods Administration, December 2020,

Whilst research into the efficacy and effects of medicinal cannabis for certain treatments is increasing, it is currently in its early days. Patients should always talk to a health professional for advice on their unique requirements before making any decisions about their treatment options.
For the latest and most accurate information on how to prescribe, and be prescribed medicinal cannabis, please head to the TGA website.


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