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Medical practitioners

A patient is requesting that I prescribe a cannabis product – what can I do?

As with any prescribing, the responsibility lies with the prescribing doctor before prescribing. Before applying for authority to prescribe a product, you need to have a particular product in mind and have the evidence that it is likely to be of benefit to and not be harmful to the patient. You may also need to explain to the patient that the product is not registered and not proven to be safe or effective, and obtain the patient’s informed consent. Visit the TGA website for more information.

Pharmacists

Do I need accreditation for myself or my pharmacy to be able to dispense cannabis medicines?

No there is no accreditation required. The doctor applying for authority to prescribe a cannabis medicine arranges supply with a pharmacy which will be convenient for the patient to have the prescription/s dispensed if the authority is issued. This can be any registered pharmacy (or hospital pharmacy) in NSW. There is no need for a pharmacist to do anything until receipt of an authorised prescription. The prescriber will need to inform you of the importation arrangements where applicable. Secure refrigerated storage facilities in the pharmacy may need to be arranged.

Can I hold unregistered cannabis medicines in stock in anticipation of being asked to dispense authorised prescriptions in future?

It is illegal for a pharmacist to hold stocks of any unregistered medicine which has not been authorised for supply to a patient. In the case of cannabis products, unauthorised possession carries heavy penalties under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act.

Can I advertise the fact that my pharmacy has, can, will or is open to dispensing cannabis medicines?

No, it is illegal to advertise or promote any Schedule 8 or Schedule 4 medicine to the public. It is also illegal to advertise or promote any unregistered medicine to anyone.

General

What authorities have already been issued for cannabis products?

To protect patient privacy the Ministry does not publish details of authorities to prescribe which have been issued, nor does it keep a list of doctors who might be willing to prescribe a cannabis product.

Cannabis is a natural plant and has been traditionally used as a folk medicine for centuries. Doesn’t that prove that it is safe and effective?

No. Many plants and substances which are natural are very dangerous or poisonous. Cannabis use can have many serious adverse effects. More information is available on Your Room's Cannabis page.

Why are there so many government licences and authorities required?

Requirements for cannabis medicines are the same or similar to those for other Schedule 8 medicines and for other unregistered medicines (which have not been proven safe and effective). In addition, cannabis is a Prohibited Drug under NSW law as well as a prohibited import under Commonwealth law. Cannabis is the only drug in this category which is legally able to be imported for therapeutic use.

Does this approval process for making cannabis products available as medicines replace the NSW government’s other initiatives on cannabis?

No, the NSW government-sponsored clinical trials of cannabis products, and the NSW Medicinal Cannabis Compassionate Use Scheme (formerly Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme) are continuing as well. For more information visit Cannabis and cannabis products for therapeutic purposes.

Are cannabis medicines the only ones that a doctor needs authority from NSW Health to prescribe?

No, this is required for many other Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 medicines (even though they are registered medicines which have been proven safe and effective) and in several other circumstances. Normally the patient is not aware that the doctor has applied for and received an authority.

Can cannabis products be supplied for therapeutic use in animals?

The arrangements in place are only for human therapeutic use. Cannabis products for any other use remain Prohibited Drugs under the NSW Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act, and authority from the NSW Ministry of Health is required for other uses such as experimental/scientific use (in vitro or in laboratory animals).

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Page Updated: Monday 10 December 2018
Contact page owner: Pharmaceutical Services