New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis industry has a much better chance of long-term success than Australia’s thanks to its more user-friendly regulatory environment.
Helius Therapeutics chief commercial officer Julie Curphey said while Australia may be ahead when it comes to production and uptake, New Zealand’s scheme gives doctors and patients a key advantage.
“Both countries want to achieve better access, however New Zealand has a much better chance of succeeding in the longer term,” she said.
“Australian doctors face considerable paperwork for each patient. In contrast, every New Zealand GP can prescribe medicinal cannabis to any patient for any health condition without extra regulatory compliance in place.”
Australian doctors must apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration to supply medicinal cannabis to patients, for specific conditions, through the Authorised Prescriber and Special Access Schemes. As well as meeting certain requirements and obtaining permits, doctors must also comply with differing state laws.
“Medicinal cannabis remains an unapproved medicine on both sides of the Tasman, yet New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme is specifically designed to ensure every Kiwi GP can prescribe with relative ease,” said Curphey.
“Unlike Australia, New Zealand’s challenge is not around excessive red tape, but educating doctors so they have the knowledge and confidence to prescribe it.”
However, she acknowledged those across the Tasman do have something to learn from Australia’s more advanced industry and prescriber behaviour.
“We’re closely observing how Australian clinicians are improving their own understanding about prescribing medicinal cannabis,” she said.
“It’s important to also comprehend how the product mix is shifting with time.
“More experience sees Australian clinicians more confidently differentiating between dose forms and product types depending on what condition they’re treating – skills and subtleties which are fantastic for patient outcomes.”
Curphey added it was important for New Zealand to better understand how the global market will take shape, with ongoing international regulatory changes key.
“Hearing success stories from patients is always inspiring and helps us understand how and where we can provide better access in New Zealand. Furthermore, international researchers remind us of medicinal cannabis’ many possibilities and where we should reflect the latest developments in our own R&D programmes,” she said.
With local products now available in New Zealand, Helius is set to roll out its export strategy this year. Curphey added: “Everyone’s excited about the prospect of ‘100% Pure’ New Zealand-grown and made cannabis medicines. They will be very popular for Kiwi and overseas patients alike.”