Wednesday, 11 September 2019
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 106 standing in my name for today, relating to medicinal cannabis oil.
I move the motion as amended:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) on 19 April 2018, a meeting of the United States' Food and Drug Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drug Advisory Committee was informed that patients with drug resistant Lennox-Gestaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS) responded to cannabidiol oil in an oral form at 10-20mg/kg/day with statistically significant reductions in convulsive seizure frequency, and that the potential risks were manageable,
(ii) on 25 June 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration approved cannabidiol oral solution for patients aged 2 years and older for the treatment of severe and rare types of epilepsy such as LGS and DS,
(iii) parents of children with LGS or DS in Australia can obtain a prescription for cannabidiol oil through the Special Access Scheme but must pay the full cost of approximately $1,500 per month, and
(iv) the cost of cannabidiol oil is so high that some people cannot afford this treatment, and others are placed under huge financial stress in what is already a distressing situation; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to ensure affordable access to cannabidiol oil for patients with LGS and DS.
The government is committed to affordable access to medicines under the mechanism stipulated by the law. Since January 2016, over 14,000 applications for medicinal cannabis have been approved by the Special Access Scheme, the SAS, which is overseen by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the TGA. Until domestic production meets local need, the government will authorise controlled importation by approved providers from approved international sources to enable an interim inventory in Australia. A recent study conducted by FreshLeaf Analytics, released in March this year, shows that the prices of most Australian medicinal cannabis products decreased by a further 26 per cent in the six months to March 2019.
Labor will support this motion because we strongly support the principle of improved access to medicinal cannabis in Australia. Labor made a series of election commitments to improve access and affordability. We urge the government to follow our lead. However, like the government, we note that medicines must be assessed for safety and efficacy by the TGA. In addition, under the National Health Act, medicines cannot be added to the PBS until they are recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. This ensures that independent experts, not politicians, guide which medicines are subsidised by taxpayers.
The Greens will be supporting this motion. Indeed, we'd like this motion to go further. At the moment, under the current system, people are being deprived of access to medicinal cannabis because the pathway that has been established by this government sets up roadblock after roadblock. If the government was serious about providing access for people with chronic pain and with a range of other medical conditions for which medicinal cannabis would provide some benefit, they would set up an independent regulatory process, take it out of the hands of the TGA and put it within the framework of an expert independent body to allow doctors to prescribe it without requiring specific approvals and then state approvals beyond the approvals already granted through the medical system. At the moment, access to medicinal cannabis is a joke. It's about time the government got serious and recognised the serious need within the community, where people would get great benefit from accessing a drug that is proven to work for so many conditions.