Doctors in three states can now apply to prescribe medicinal cannabis under the TGA’s Special Access Scheme in a one-step online process set to speed-up screening.
The TGA launched the online system this week, with doctors in NSW, Queensland and Victoria now cleared to take part.
“The TGA is currently working with the remaining state and territory health departments to seek their agreement to participate in future releases of the online system,” the agency said.
To date, a total of 271 medical practitioners – specialists and GPs – have been approved to prescribe medicinal cannabis products under the TGA’s Special Access Scheme Category B (SASB). The number reflects a far higher number of patients under treatment.
The agency said 426 practitioners had applied under SASB, with many applications pending requests for further information while some had been withdrawn.
In March, NSW was the first state to take up the one-step process, while the online system was still being developed, leading to a sharp rise in approvals for doctors in that state.
Previously, all intending prescribers were required to apply to both the TGA and their local health authorities, drawing complaints about delays and unexplained refusals, despite having received TGA approval.
A seminar will be held in Sydney next month to bring doctors up to speed on the science and prescribing of medicinal cannabis, with speakers including regulators, lawyers and clinicians experienced in using the drug.
The two-day event, accredited by the RACGP, will address common clinical applications, patient safety, and the local regulatory environment for prescribing of medicinal cannabis.
US expert Dr Jeffrey Hergenrather will headline a list of Australian practitioners and academics presenting at the clinician-only workshop-style course on September 8 and 9.
The first run of the seminar, Essentials of Medicinal Cannabis: What Practitioners Need to Know, was a sell-out in Melbourne in May with 60 applicants, mostly GPs, vying for 45 places.
The seminar is being presented by three groups: the National Institute of Integrative Medicine (NIIM), the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, and the NICM Health Research Institute of Western Sydney.
They note that Australian patients’ interest in medicinal cannabis has been growing faster than access.
“Healthcare practitioners need to understand medicinal cannabis, as it will be one of the biggest disrupters in healthcare,” they say.
Only 34 medical practitioners are TGA Authorised Prescribers, permitting them to prescribe a specific product for specific patient groups.
So far, only one Australian GP has achieved that status, with an application overseen by the medical ethics committee of the NIIM. Another nine doctors, including eight GPs, are currently applying through the same pathway.
After a COAG meeting in April, Health Minister Greg Hunt said all states and territories had agreed to get on board with the “single-in” application process, expected to take no more than 48 hours.
“So now, time should not be a matter of concern once a doctor has made his or her prescription,” he said.
Seminar information: medicinalcannabiseducation.org.au