The Department of Health (DoH) has told MPs it does not regulate medicinal cannabis pricing after WA Greens senator Rachel Siewert highlighted the high cost of treatment in this year’s Senate Estimates hearings.
Siewart asked whether there was any regulation on the prices being charged for medicinal cannabis products and highlighted concerns around pharmacies being linked to clinics.
She said: “Feedback from patients is that the prices that are generally being charged for clinic consultations and medicinal cannabis products prescribed by clinic doctors are exorbitant.”
“Some clinics have a pharmacy arm (owned by the clinic group) which will only dispense certain products sponsored by companies with which the clinics have a commercial deal.
“What is the Department doing to regulate this conduct – for example, is it engaging with relevant regulatory authorities to ensure that clinic and pharmacy practices are properly regulated?”
In response, the DoH said “the Australian Government does not regulate fees charged for healthcare services by private healthcare providers”.
“Patients have the right, however, to ask for an estimate of fees before receiving a service in order to make an informed decision.
“The price a supplier charges for non-PBS (full cost or private) medicines, such as unapproved medicinal cannabis products provided through the Special Access or Authorised Prescriber Schemes, is determined by the supplier and not by the Government.”
It added: “The Department of Health does not have a role in regulating health professional conduct or clinical practice. Complaints regarding clinical practice issues are matters for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).”
It advised “general complaints” about healthcare services could be directed to the Health Care Complaints Commission (or its equivalent) in each state or territory while “allegations of practice related to anti-competitive practice and behaviour can be referred to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission”.
“Further, state and territory governments regulate the prescribing and pharmacy supply of prescription medicines in accordance with their respective drugs and poisons legislation,” it concluded.