The expected down scheduling of CBD to make it available in pharmacies will ultimately be a good thing for consumers, according to Elixinol CEO Oliver Horn.
Under an application outlined by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), low-dose CBD – defined as 60mg per day for a maximum of 30 days – will be downgraded to schedule 3 of the Poisons Standard, making it available without prescription from pharmacies.
“If it happens, it’s really good news for consumers and the industry,” said Horn. “A lot of consumers can’t easily access medicinal cannabis and CBD products at the moment, and with the down scheduling, access will be through your pharmacy. It’s really good news for patients, and consumers, and us as an industry.”
Some industry members have voiced concerns that the down scheduling will provide little benefit to patients. The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA) has shared concerns it could be a political “quick fix” that creates confusion, while Rhys Cohen, principal consultant with FreshLeaf Analytics, said the application could turn into a “red herring“, with companies facing “onerous” challenges to get product over the line, particularly at such a low dose.
However, Horn countered: “We take a more positive stance. From both our US and European experience, we’ve seen how many lives are positively impacted by well formulated and high-quality CBD products. There is no doubt that Australians are missing out and are hence taking matters into their own hands to source products that are, at times, of dubious quality.
“Giving access to high-quality products via pharmacy distribution responds to the growing consumer demand while enhancing product compliance and correct application and use. It also creates broader awareness among health care professionals which in turn will provide a broader range of options in treating certain indications.”
Schedule 3 CBD products will have different customers with different needs, he said, distinct from higher dose schedule 4 CBD products for patients with more severe symptoms like epilepsy and seizures.
“The down scheduling will not remove schedule 4,” he said. “Schedule 4 will continue to exist, which is higher dose medicinal cannabis. Schedule 3 is low dose, milder severity, milder symptoms, not the severity that schedule 4 products will provide for. So you’re going to see two levels of product emerging: high dose, high efficacy, low dose, lower efficacy for milder symptoms, and they will exist at the same time. It’s not one or the other.”