Medicinal cannabis approvals through the Special Access Scheme jumped to their highest number since November and the fourth best on record, latest figures have shown.

The March data revealed 11,570 SAS-B approvals by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), up from February’s 9,400. It has only been surpassed three time before, in September, October and November last year.

The figures are particularly encouraging given medical practitioners now prescribe by category rather than brand name. It means pharmacists are able to dispense an alternative medicine — providing it sits within the same category — without the need for a patient to seek a new prescription.

Almost 10,000 of the SAS-B approvals in March were for schedule 8 medicines, with oil making up 55% of the market and flower 38%.

Chronic pain and anxiety were the most common indications for cannabis medicine, accounting for nearly eight out of 10 prescriptions, followed by sleep disorder (6%), PTSD (2.5%) and depression (2%).

Queensland was again the leading state for medicinal cannabis approvals, accounting for 58%, with New South Wales representing just 11% of the market despite being Australia’s most populous state.

The TGA said there were 903 Authorised Prescribers as of March 31, up from fewer than 300 a year ago.

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...