In NSW, expert clinical guidance and cannabis medicine prescribing advice for general practitioners, community pharmacists and rural health practitioners is available via the John Hunter Hospital Pharmacy Department.

The service can assist with:

  • understanding the latest evidence around cannabis medicines
  • understanding the regulatory requirements for cannabis prescription
  • considering tools to monitor a patient’s progress whilst using cannabis medicines
  • provision of protocols to facilitate cannabis medicine prescribing
  • information about dosing and titration in individual patients.
The John Hunter Hospital Pharmacy Department can be contacted by email via HNELHD-JHHPharmacy@health.nsw.gov.au.
Public health practitioners working in metropolitan local health districts should consult their local medicines information services for clinical guidance and prescribing advice.

Guidance for doctors

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has released clinical guidance for doctors and consumers. Doctors and consumers should consult this guidance.

Frequently asked questions

Where can doctors access cannabis medicines  advice?

Advice on cannabis medicines is available to support general practitioners, community pharmacists and rural health practitioners considering the use of a cannabis medicine as a treatment for their patient. Based at John Hunter Hospital in Hunter New England Local Health District, the service was initially established in response to feedback that doctors need prompt access to expert advice about when a cannabis medicine might be an appropriate treatment option, which medicines are available and how to administer them.

How does the service operate?

General practitioners, community pharmacists and rural health practitioners can access up-to-date information about the use of cannabis medicines; formulations, dosing regimens and potential interactions with other drugs.

Doctors can discuss the outcomes of clinical trials using cannabis medicines and other research relevant to the particular symptoms their patient is experiencing. They can get advice on factors in their patient’s medical history that should be considered as part of the decision to use a cannabis medicine or a particular product.

The service can also draw on existing clinical and research networks and communicate changes to treatment standards using registered medicines, helping doctors ensure their patients are referred to best-practice evidence-based care.

For some conditions, protocols for prescribing will be available to assist doctors.

Why do doctors need this service?

Use of cannabis medicines is an emerging field. Currently only two cannabis medicines have been fully assessed for safety, quality and effectiveness and are registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

All other cannabis medicines are experimental. Information about their safety profile is not readily available. This includes appropriate formulations and dosing, possible side effects and how particular products may interact with other medicines a patient is receiving. The effect on different people, especially those with more than one condition, is still being studied. Early research may provide limited and sometimes contradictory results.

It can be time-consuming for doctors to undertake the necessary research into products and keep pace with developments in the literature. The service is available to assist doctors and pharmacists knowledgeable about the latest clinical practice and research developments.

Will the service speed up access to cannabis medicine?

Doctors do not have to seek advice from the John Hunter Hospital pharmacy department  before they make an application to prescribe a cannabis medicine. However, if they have not made an application before, it can be helpful if they do so. Seeking advice first can help ensure any application made by a doctor is appropriate and complete.

By providing support through clinical guidance and prescribing protocols, the service will also help streamline the application process for a doctor requesting an authority to prescribe and supply a cannabis medicine where this is appropriate.

Why is the service based in Newcastle?

The Hunter New England Local Health District is highly experienced in providing health coverage to many rural and regional areas. This location ensures access to expert clinical advice for both metropolitan and regional practitioners, including those based in rural and remote areas.

Can patients call the service?

The service is for general practitioners and community pharmacists and in rural areas all other health practitioners. Further information about cannabis medicines and NSW Government-funded clinical trials for patients and members of the general public is available through:

  • Telephone: Healthdirect Help Line 1800 217 257
  • Email: The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation, cmcri@moh.health.nsw.gov.au
  • Post: Cannabis Trials, Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation, Locked Mail Bag 2030, St Leonards NSW 1590.
Current as at: Tuesday 4 October 2022
Contact page owner: Pharmaceutical Services