Prescribing Medicinal Cannabis in the ACT

Cannabis products can be prescribed as schedule 8 ‘controlled’ medicines in the ACT when they are  intended for medicinal use and are either:

a) manufactured in Australia in accordance with the Commonwealth Department of Health legislation; or

b) imported in accordance with a valid customs import license issued by the Commonwealth Department of Health

The legal status of all other forms of cannabis, whether intended for medicinal use or not, has not changed.  Cannabis cultivated by patients for their own use, or medicinal cannabis products manufactured outside of the Commonwealth Department of Health legislation cannot be prescribed.

Medicinal Cannabis Prescriber Approvals

In order to prescribe cannabis as a controlled medicine, prescribers must obtain approval from the ACT Chief Health Officer (CHO) through the same process which currently applies for other controlled medicines such as opiates and amphetamines. A prescriber can apply for an approval to prescribe a controlled medicine for one of their patients.

Prescribers can apply for a Category Approval for medicinal cannabis to streamline processing of their application. Applications should be in accordance with Category 6 – Medicinal Cannabis in the ACT Controlled Medicines Prescribing Standards.
 
In accordance with Category 6 – Medicinal Cannabis a prescriber may apply to the CHO for approval to prescribe medicinal cannabis within certain criteria for the following indications:
  • Spasticity in multiple sclerosis.
  • Nausea and vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy.
  • Pain and/or anxiety in patients with active malignancy of a life limiting disease where (in either case) the prognosis might reasonably be expected to be 12 months or less.
  • Refractory paediatric epilepsy.
Prescribers may also apply for an Approval by Drug to prescribe medicinal cannabis for other indications. These applications will be assessed on a case by case basis and may be referred to the Medicinal Cannabis Medical Advisory Panel for advice.

NB: Cannabidiol (when containing no more than 2% of other cannabinoids) is a schedule 4 medicine, and as such no ACT Health authorisation is required.

Commonwealth Government legislation also requires a prescriber who wishes to prescribe medicinal cannabis to obtain an authority to prescribe from the Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA).  Prescribers may submit their application at the same time as their TGA application, however applications will not be approved by ACT Health until TGA approval has been obtained.

A copy of the Controlled Medicines Prescribing Standards, which includes the Category 6 – Medicinal Cannabis can be found here.

Information about obtaining authorised prescriber approval from the TGA can be found on the TGA website at https://www.tga.gov.au/

Information regarding importation of medicinal cannabis products can be found on the Office of Drug Control website at https://www.odc.gov.au/

Supply of Medicinal Cannabis

Pharmacists who receive a prescription for the supply of medicinal cannabis should contact the prescriber to discuss arrangements for obtaining medicinal cannabis for the patient.

Pharmacists may need to apply to the TGA and the Office of Drug Control to seek approval to obtain medicinal cannabis.

Further Information

For further questions about medicinal cannabis, please contact the Pharmaceutical Services section of the ACT Health Protection Service on (02) 6205 0998.