22 March 2023, 17:36
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan)

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health and relates to medicinal cannabis accessibility. As the minister is aware, medicinal cannabis products must be prescribed by a doctor and can provide life-changing relief for people suffering severe muscle spasms or severe pain resulting from multiple sclerosis; for people with severe pain, nausea, vomiting or wasting arising from cancer or HIV/AIDS; for people suffering from severe seizures resulting from epileptic conditions; and for people with severe chronic pain and a range of other serious health conditions.

Medicinal cannabis products can be accessed only via prescription with Commonwealth and/or state approvals, but as medicinal cannabis products are not currently subsidised by the pharmaceutical benefits scheme the cost can be hugely prohibitive for some patients, varying substantially between $500 and $1000 per patient per week depending on the nature of the condition being treated, the particular product required and the prescribed dose.

Where the medical condition being treated renders a person unable to work, the significant cost I have just highlighted means that patients simply cannot access the medication they need to function. The action I seek is that the minister consider introducing a low-income medicinal cannabis subsidy for the most vulnerable medicinal cannabis patients in the state.

Written Answer
Received: 5th July 2023
Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas MP
(Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Ambulance Services)

I understand the concerns you have raised in relation to costs and access for people wanting to utilise medicinal cannabis products. Decisions about the approval and subsidy of medicines in Australia is the responsibility of the Commonwealth and there are a number of programs which subsidise medicines with the aim of improving affordability, including the listing of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

In the case of the PBS, medicines are assessed for inclusion according to specific access criteria. Additional indications are assessed for inclusion on the PBS following application for inclusion by the product sponsor.

Sponsor applications must then be evaluated by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (the Committee) and approved before being listed on the PBS. The Victorian Government is unable to influence the Committee in its determinations.

I am however, willing to raise this matter with the responsible Federal Minister, the Hon Mark Butler MP.


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