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RACGP calls for national consistency for access to medicinal cannabis

12 March, 2018

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called for an end to the highly bureaucratic, time-consuming and expensive process for prescribing medicinal cannabis products for Australian patients.

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said a consistent national regulatory framework for prescribing medicinal cannabis products would help ensure patient welfare is at the centre of this difficult and rapidly evolving area of medicine.

“The current process of prescribing medicinal cannabis products in Australia differs significantly in every state and territory, which does not make sense,” Dr Seidel said.

“Australia’s state health ministers must agree on a nationally consistent regulatory framework that will create a single-step approval process. This will significantly benefit frustrated GPs and their patients.

“While the regulatory and prescribing regime must be robust to ensure only appropriate clinical access within the confines of the legislation, patients and doctors should not have to jump through hoops and wait months to access a drug that may improve a patient’s quality of life.”

Dr Seidel urged the health ministers to implement the RACGP’s recommendations at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting next month.

“Our political leaders have an opportunity to implement a framework that will cut the red tape that is currently strangling the process for specialist GPs and their patients.

“This has the potential to improve patient safety and reduce variation because of different jurisdictional processes of states and territories.

“It is about time we make this work for all Australians, regardless of where they live.”

Dr Seidel said the role of specialist GPs must be carefully considered in the development of a national consistent framework for prescribing medicinal cannabis products.

“It is unclear how, or whether, general practice will be included in this framework,” Dr Seidel said.

“The current regulatory complexities and differences between states and territories around accessing medicinal cannabis products are significant barriers for GPs.

“GPs are the first port of call for Australian patients, so they have a vital role to play in this important medical issue and rapidly evolving area of medicine.

“GPs are specialists, and those who wish to prescribe medicinal cannabis products should be treated like any other specialist, and in partnership with patients, have the autonomy to determine when it is appropriate to prescribe to eligible patients.

“If I have a patient, who has tried all standard treatment options without success, I should be able to consider prescribing medicinal cannabis as a viable treatment option without having to wait months.”

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