It could take five to 10 years before the health industry fully understands “if, where and how” cannabis fits into the range of medicines used to treat patients, delegates at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Online Health Symposium have been told.

Queensland Health manager Tanya Bain said in the meantime, regulators and healthcare practitioners will continue to juggle the “fine line between patient expectation and evidence-based medicine”.

She added while the industry is still in its infancy, increasing doctor acceptance and a growing patient base are contributing to SAS-B approvals averaging around 9,000 since the start of the year.

Bain suggested the anticipated introduction of Queensland’s Medicines and Poisons Act 2019 this year will boost numbers still further.

The act eliminates duplication with the Commonwealth approval process by enabling non-specialist medical practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis without the need for approval from Queensland Health, although that will still be required when treating a drug-dependent person.

Bain also noted that the act groups medicines into four classes, including ‘monitored medicines’, where products containing THC will sit.

This has led to the creation of the ‘Monitored Medicines Database’ known as ‘QScript’, a real-time prescribing monitoring system.

She added: “It will be mandatory for prescribers and pharmacists to check QScript prior to dispensing, prescribing, and giving a treatment dose of a monitored medicine.”

Overall, Queensland Health is happy with the way the industry is regulated.

Bain said: “There are established pathways for accessing both registered and unregistered medicines in Australia… Queensland Health believes that these pathways in combination with existing Commonwealth Department of Health oversight adequately manages the risks associated with prescribing medicinal cannabis.”