Victoria has reimposed a state-based approval process for medicinal cannabis prescriptions in a move that could again hamper patient access to medication.
For the past 12 months, GPs have only needed TGA sign-off to prescribe cannabis following a Covid-triggered Public Health Emergency Order.
But the streamlined process, which applied to Schedule 8 medicines and had been welcomed by prescribers and patients, came to end on Sunday when the emergency order expired.
An earlier expiration date of September 27, 2020 had previously been extended to March 27. But no further extension was granted, meaning the return of another layer of red tape.
It is feared the administrative burden of requiring both state and federal approval could delay the dispensing of medication or put off doctors altogether.
A memo sent by the Victorian Government to prescribers, and seen by Cannabiz, spells out the requirement for prescribers to again seek state permission.
The government memo says: “This PHEO [public health emergency order] was put in place on 26 March 2020 in response [to] the Covid-19 pandemic and it removed the requirement for Schedule 8 permits for non-drug dependent patients conditional on prescribers taking all reasonable steps to check the SafeScript [the Victorian Government’s real-time prescription monitoring system].
“This email is to advise that the Schedule 8 permit Public Health Emergency Order (PHEO #6) will expire on 27 March 2021.”
The memo goes on to say: “From 28 March 2021 onwards, prescribers are required to apply for Schedule 8 permits for non-drug dependent patients.”
In what will be regarded as another case of double standards, certain opioids up to 100mg per day are excluded from the Schedule 8 approval requirement.
Medicinal Council Industry Australia (MCIA) has raised the issue with the Victorian Government.
“Our understanding is this will mean that Victorian medicinal cannabis prescribers will need to apply for a state based approval in addition to the TGA SAS-B approval, or in the case of an Authorised Prescriber they can no longer simply write the script,” MCIA executive manager Rosemary Richards said.
“This places another barrier for prescribers and will place Victoria behind other states like New South Wales and Queensland.”
Entoura general manager Clare Barker described the additional bureaucracy as “concerning”.
“This is not positive for the medicinal cannabis industry as prescribers will see this as another barrier to prescribing. And what we’re finding is that a little annoyance is enough to put someone off.
“They are also allowing some low-dose opioids to be prescribed without a permit yet they have given no such consideration to cannabis.”