Despite TGA warnings, most Australian medical cannabis patients still access via the black market
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is warning consumers about the risks of buying medicinal cannabis products online. In what seems to be an acknowledgement that the vast majority of medical cannabis patients in Australia still access products via the so-called ‘legacy’ or black market, the TGA has launched a campaign to encourage people not to use the illegal market to source their medicinal cannabis products.
However the fact that so many people continue to use the black market potentially says more about the inefficiencies and costs associated with legal medical cannabis in Australia . While the TGA should be commended for the initiative, it may be more effective to consider alternative regulatory approaches, including the option for patients grow their own cannabis.
Access to medicinal cannabis
According to the TGA “Medicinal cannabis products bought online may be unsafe, of poor quality or contain a different dose to what the label claims”
“In Australia, patients may legally access medicinal cannabis if a registered doctor gives them a prescription and the patient fills the prescription at a pharmacy.
With the exception of a very small number of prescription only products, medicinal cannabis products are not approved medicines in Australia, which means the TGA has not assessed them for safety, quality or effectiveness.
Since 1 February 2021 pharmacists have been able to supply certain TGA approved medical cannabis products containing a low dose of cannabidiol CBD over-the-counter. However, to date there are no approved products of this type. In practice, patients must still obtain a prescription to access any medicinal cannabis product in Australia.
Currently there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis for use for different medical conditions. There is also little known about the most suitable doses of individual cannabis products. The TGA has published medicinal cannabis guidance documents to assist doctors in considering medicinal cannabis for the treatment of certain conditions.
If a doctor determines that an unapproved medicinal cannabis product is suitable for a patient, the doctor can apply to the TGA for access to unapproved products via the Special Access Scheme (SAS) or the Authorised Prescriber Scheme.
The TGA has published information for consumers on how to access medicinal cannabis, including a printable infographic.
Beware of fake medicinal cannabis
Beware of buying medicines online. It may seem like a simple, affordable option, but products bought over the internet may be a serious risk to your health and a waste of money.
Products sold on the black market, especially from online sellers that do not request a doctor’s prescription, are unlikely to achieve the desired results and can be very dangerous. Counterfeit (fake) products mimic authentic goods but may contain undeclared hazardous ingredients. A lack of manufacturing and testing standards may also result in contaminated products. Using fake products can put you at serious risk of unpredictable or severe adverse reactions.
Medicinal cannabis products generally contain CBD and/or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive substance in cannabis. A study(link is external) published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that it is common for CBD products to be labelled with inaccurate dosage and that CBD concentration varied across batches of the same product, purchased at different times. This study also highlighted that without independent testing from a laboratory experienced in analysing CBD content, it is impossible to confirm if the level of THC stated on the label is correct and that the product is not contaminated. These results serve as a warning against buying medicinal cannabis products online.”
To read the full TGA release please visit here