The New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Council has welcomed discussions to down schedule CBD as the country looks to follow Australia by making low-dose cannabidiol available over the counter through pharmacies.

The potential reclassification of CBD has been included on the agenda of the next meeting of NZ’s Medicines Classification Committee (MCC) later this year.

The down scheduling, which, like Australia, would allow for a maximum daily dose of 150mg, has been proposed by the NZ regulator, Medsafe.

“Medsafe requests that the Medicines Classification Committee (MCC) considers the classification of substances in Australia, noting that New Zealand and Australia have been working towards harmonisation of classification decisions in both countries,” it said in a document detailing the proposed change.

As in Australia, any potential over-the-counter CBD product would need to be registered and taken through clinical trials to demonstrate efficacy.

The MCC will invite submissions to the proposal.

News of the down scheduling came as a Science Advisory Committee in Canada concluded that a daily dose of 200mg was safe. The committee, which examines health products containing cannabis, was asked by Health Canada to assess CBD to shape future regulations.

NZ Medicinal Cannabis Council executive director Sally King welcomed the development, but said demonstrating efficacy at 150mg could be a “tall order”.

“On the face of it you would hope that it would be a genuine opportunity to lower costs and achieve greater access for patients, but they are still going to require that these products are registered so that’s a pretty tall order for 150mg CBD,” she told Cannabiz.

It is unclear if the NZMCC will cite the Canadian report in its submission or push for the daily limit to be raised to 200mg.

“We are formulating what our response will be, but of course we support further access for patients,” she said.

“It’s instructive that the Canadian committee has unanimously approved 200mg as safe for a pharmacist-only medicine, and the beauty of that research is that it is right up to date. It has examined the most recent literature.

“They also support the use of CBD for companion animals. That is all grist to the mill of understanding CBD and its beneficial properties, and how it can be managed more suitably for patients and prescribers.”

On the agenda: NZ’s Medicines Classification Committee will debate the down scheduling of CBD at its next meeting

King added: “It’s a good piece of work and seems to me very sensible and well thought-through advice.”

Although the reality is that any OTC product in NZ is some years away, King said it would provide a boost for the industry as it attempts to navigate the early years of tight regulation.

“Over-the-counter CBD would help with cash flow and fund research for medicines and the development of a capital-intensive industry,” she said. “Equally importantly is that it will bring down the price for patients.

“Anything we can do to improve access and to ensure a reasonable price is all good in our book.”

A date for the Medicines Classification Committee meeting has yet to be confirmed.

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...

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