EXCLUSIVE: Why aren't Bundy doctors prescribing cannabis?
Sufferers of chronic non-cancer pain can now access medicinal cannabis treatment in Bundaberg.
The NewsMail can exclusively reveal an amendment to the the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 in May this year, enabling approved specialists including specialist GPs to prescribe Sativex to certain patients for defined conditions.
A Queensland Health spokesman said Sativex became available in Australia in November and was the only nationally registered Schedule 8 medicinal cannabis product on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
"Previously, Sativex was only available to be prescribed by neurology and rehabilitation specialist doctors for the treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis," he said.
Now specialist medical practitioners can prescribe medical cannabis to patients experiencing chronic non-cancer pain; chemotherapy-induced nausea or vomiting, terminally ill people being treated by a palliative medicine specialist for symptoms associated with terminal illness, children with drug-resistant epilepsy as well as people with multiple sclerosis experiencing spasticity.
"These amendments will streamline and improve access to this registered medicine for patients with certain defined conditions where a specialist medical practitioner considers there may be a clinical benefit," the spokesman said.
"Other non-specialist doctors, including GPs, wishing to treat individual patients with Sativex can seek approval from Queensland Health.
"Sativex is a clinically tested, standardised, cannabinoid-based medication produced from cultivated cannabis sativa plants.
"All other medicinal cannabis products are unapproved goods that require approval by both the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the State Government to be prescribed."
The spokesman said the pathways provided under the law provided safe and controlled access for "those patients who need it most".
Despite medicinal cannabis being made legal in 2016, the spokesman said that, to date, 108 approvals had been issued to doctors under the single-patient approval pathway to prescribe medicinal cannabis in Queensland.
However, no applications have been made by doctors in the Wide Bay.
Australian Medical Association Queensland addiction medicine specialist Jim Finn said doctors supported the best treatment for patients, but any treatment or drug needed to be backed by evidence.
"Recent studies have not demonstrated a strong effect on chronic pain for medical cannabis but further results are awaited," Dr Finn said.