Tasmanian GPs should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis products, according to Huon Valley-based doctor Bastian Seidel.
Under the state government’s Controlled Access Scheme, patients seeking access to medicinal cannabis must first consult with their GP, who can then refer them to a relevant specialist.
Only specialists are able to prescribe unregistered cannabis products, in circumstances where conventional treatments have proved unsuccessful.
However Dr Seidel, who is the immediate past president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, said referring patients to specialists was creating an unnecessary burden on an already stretched health system.
“In Tasmania if I wanted to prescribe medicinal cannabis, I can’t,” he said.
“I need to refer my patient to a public hospital.
“We know that our state’s public hospitals are already stretched on a daily basis, without more unnecessary referrals.
“It could then take months to see a specialist, and then that specialist may or may not be interested.
“Often medicinal cannabis is the last resort, and the people seeking it have exhausted all other options.
“In that case you can’t be relying on an application process that could take months.
“Most patients don’t have months.”
To date, seven Tasmanians have been granted access to medicinal cannabis products through the Controlled Access Scheme, since it was introduced in September last year.
Because medicinal cannabis products are considered unapproved drugs in Australia, they can only be accessed through the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Special Access Scheme or Authorised Prescriber Scheme.
However, Tasmania remains the only state in Australia unable to utilise an online application system designed to streamline access at both a state and federal level.
Dr Seidel said people had the right to be asking why Tasmania “hadn’t followed suit” with the rest of the country.
“As GPs, one of our main priorities is to always minimise referrals, because we already know how stretched our hospitals are,” he said.
“Quite frankly I think the federal government has done everything it can now.
“It is really up to the states to meet the needs of patients.
“It is not going to be a free for all, but what is not clear is why there are all of these bureaucratic hurdles in place.
“If this was a decision that was left to the GPs, and not the politicians, it would make a lot more sense.
“For both the community and most importantly, for the patients.”
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