The Australian medical cannabis industry may have its challenges, but its focus on affordable access and patient care make it a role model for the rest of the world, says SOMAÍ Pharmaceuticals chairman and CEO Michael Sassano. 

The Australian market has become one of only three significant global medical cannabis markets in the world. 

Although all eyes are on the US potentially rescheduling the substance after Germany removed the narcotics label from cannabis medicines, the Australian market continues to expand faster than most because of the focus on what is best for patients and their experience.

Australia leads in cannabis choice and pricing

Doctor and patient relationships and freedom of choice for both parties help to form the foundation of a solid medical cannabis market. When the focus is on limiting access instead, problems arise.

Michael Sassano

For example, Israel only permits flower sales and limits other products, such as extracts. Germany’s market focuses on the magistral preparation of extracts with a minimal framework for different form factors like gel capsules or faster-acting excipients.

As another example, seniors in the US are a growing market that may consume cannabis in low dosages for arthritis. Their preferred administrative and dosage choice is a mild 1:50 gel capsule or edible format. With flower-only restrictions, they would have to roll a joint or use a smoking pipe instead. Massive market segments are being excluded from access because they simply don’t want to smoke.

Australia is far beyond other larger markets regarding choice with patients having close to 1,000 medical cannabis product choices. Giving options to doctors and patients is precisely what the cannabis-as-medicine movement has always been about, not a one-size-fits-all therapy program.

The country has also embraced lower consumer pricing, making daily medicine more affordable and accessible. All favourable consumer markets give patients ample choice and affordable pricing, providing access to everyday necessities.

Entrepreneurship and patient experience 

The fastest-growing cannabis markets have always had a streamlined regulatory path for patient access. They also share a community of entrepreneurs who want to be in the industry and care about the patient experience. Australia has some of the most creative models in the global cannabis landscape.

Clinics offer virtual or in-person appointments, and patients can go to their local dispensing pharmacy and pick up the prescription immediately after finishing the consultation. The speed of service has always been a weak point for the global cannabis market – in most places, it can take days to get an appointment and a day or more to receive the order at the pharmacy.

Although other markets are working on similar setups, the patient service level in Australia is ahead of the game. Most cannabis consumers want the same-day service they can get with any other medicine, grocery, or Amazon order, and even the unregulated market’s organised delivery. 

Changing regulations across the globe

Australia also has a good framework for access to cannabis medicines. Entrepreneurs will always want better, but the regulators here seem to truly believe that patient access to cannabis is a good thing.

Countries around the world are waking up to the positive benefits of the medicine. Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services released a letter and lengthy report detailing a review of 30,000 cannabis-prescribing physicians and six million patients after two decades of legalisation.

The organisations found that cannabis is safe, applicable as a medicine for at least 15 indications, and poses less risk than many typical pharmaceutical drugs

“Massive market segments are being excluded from access because they simply don’t want to smoke.”

Global policymakers need to embrace cannabis as safe and effective for the population and Australia seems to be ahead of the curve in studying its positive effects and providing a solid framework for access to those in need. 

We should applaud a regulatory environment that provides safe, high-quality products so patients don’t have to turn to more dangerous pharmaceuticals or the unregulated market.

Additionally, most favourable patient-access markets have well-defined rules governing the production and distribution of cannabis. The Australian regulations follow pharmaceutical-quality standards and best practices. The market also recognises the unique properties of cannabis as a medicine, acknowledging the need for patient choice.

Expect Australia’s influence on global cannabis to grow

There was a time when Israel and Germany dominated the global industry. Today, there is a robust medical cannabis market developing in Australia with an industry uniquely dedicated to meeting patient needs and helping them have the best possible experience.

Global markets are getting ready to explode after Germany removed the narcotics label from the substance and Australia will serve as a role model for new countries trying to develop regulatory frameworks and infrastructure to support local patient needs – now and into the future.

Leave a comment