A CANNABIS clinic in East Fremantle has welcomed new rules that make it simpler for patients to get medical cannabis.
This week the McGowan government announced that GPs would be allowed to prescribe the medication without the need for a referral to a specialist, bringing WA into line with Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
“Patients were waiting six weeks and paying $400 to see a specialist for a support letter,” says Cannabis Wellness Clinic owner Vishal Maharaj.
Specialist approval will still be required for children under 16 and patients with a history of drug abuse.
Mr Maharaj noted that doctors would still need to go through a lengthy process to be authorised to prescribe medical cannabis.
“All GPs could prescribe, but they are not doing it because of the process and the red tape.”
He also thinks some doctors are hesitant to write a script for the drug, because they don’t know enough about it.
“A lot of doctors won’t have the skills, training, or the confidence to put patients on medical cannabis.”
Medicinal cannabis is not covered under the federal government’s controlled pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and a month’s supply costs between $155-$265.
Mr Maharaj reckons people with chronic health issues are already out of pocket when the cost of opiate-based drugs, specialist visits and other medical costs are toted up.
His clinic uses a holistic approach to treat people with a variety of health problems including chronic pain, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s and anxiety.
“It’s about disease management. Looking at life style changes rather than just taking a pill.”
He says one patient housebound by chronic anxiety was able to go out to the shops after just a month on medicinal cannabis.
“And a person with epilepsy, had their seizures reduced in a couple of months.” Mr Maharaj says.
The regulatory change to medical cannabis follows a three-year WA Health Department review.
by JENNY D’ANGER