Australia’s two medicinal cannabis industry bodies have expressed concerns over a new online ordering service launched by CA Clinics this week, with MCIA raising the issue with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
CA Connect users go through a virtual consult, a phone consultation with a cannabis practitioner and receive free follow-ups every two weeks. It provides what the company described as “fast and simple access to low-dose CBD without sacrificing personalised patient care”.
However, Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia (MCIA) discussed the issue at its board meeting yesterday (Wednesday) and agreed to flag concerns with the regulator.
CA Connect allows patients to select from three care plans to a maximum dosage of 150mg per day. Patients can titrate up their dose in accordance with prescribed instructions.
Despite low-dose CBD being down-scheduled for sale over-the-counter without a prescription by the TGA in December 2020, there are still no such products listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and available for purchase in pharmacies.
CA Connect said it is hoping to fill that gap by prescribing Australian-compliant, GMP-certified CBD products that may be compounded or branded.
However, MCIA chair Peter Crock told Cannabiz its board members were not convinced the service operates within the spirit of the TGA’s scheduling changes nor forthcoming changes to compounding rules which will see medical practitioners and pharmacists requiring Special Access Scheme approval to extemporaneously compound cannabis medicines.
“We continue to be concerned about practices that may not be in the best interests of patients, and potentially put the industry’s reputation at risk,” Crock said.
“MCIA supports a holistic healthcare approach built around patients and their regular health professionals determining if medicinal cannabis is an appropriate medicine for their needs and current conditions.
“We believe that these types of approaches are not necessarily aligned with the intent of low-dose CBD scheduling changes, nor the forthcoming reforms to compounding recently announced by the TGA.”
Crock said MCIA will continue to work with members and “advocate broadly across the industry to ensure the sector is legitimate, compliant and trusted”.
In a statement to Cannabiz, CA Clinics said the new platform is a prescription service which is not trying to operate within the S3 category. It noted that changes to compounding rules are still in the consultation stage.
A spokesperson said: “CA Connect welcomes the down-scheduling of S3 products and looks forward to our patients being able to access them using this framework in the future. [It] is a patient treatment program and operates independently from the various approval frameworks, compounding or otherwise.”
Responding to concerns that CA Connect was akin to an online ordering service or retail offering, the company invited the industry to follow the patient journey for themselves.
“CA Connect puts the focus squarely on patient health outcomes in both consultation and follow-ups with a healthcare professional, but is also proud to alleviate some of the red tape and cost issues that have prevented many Australian patients from being able to consider this treatment option,” the spokesperson added.
Meanwhile, the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Association (AMCA), of which CA Clinics is a member, told Cannabiz it was liaising with the company about the new service.
General manager Gail Wiseman said: “AMCA encourages its members and other industry players to obtain expert legal advice before launching platforms that advertise and supply therapeutic goods to the general public.
“AMCA has reached out to CA Clinics to discuss its launch of the CA Connect online ordering service and the resulting feedback from industry regarding it.”
The CA Clinics spokesperson said the company had engaged with “all major industry bodies” in the lead-up to the launch of CA Connect and welcomed their feedback.
“We are pleased that the philosophy of CA Connect strongly aligns with that of AMCA, to ensure Australians have access to affordable patient care and medicinal cannabis treatment options,” the company said.
“We are also aligned with MCIA by supporting local manufacturers.”
Asked whether CA Clinics sought legal advice about compliance prior to launching the service, the spokesperson told Cannabiz: “We are always focused on being legally compliant and providing patients with quality care at affordable price points.”