The touchy subject of medicinal marijuanas in Australia has always been a hotbed of contention and opinion among all rungs of the community.
Since the landmark decision to legalise medicinal marijuanas in Australia in 2016, there have been steps forward in terms of perception of the substance as a possible therapeutic treatment option. There have also been new controversies surrounding the legalities, affordability, prescribing, and admitted stigma carried by medicinal marijuanas in Australia for years.
While it appears to be very “two steps forward, three steps back” in many respects, there is credence for hope and optimism on the horizon. For instance, a large variety of telehealth services is already able to prescribe medicinal marijuanas in Australia over secure internet channels and by accredited medical practitioners.
Today’s article will be focused on one challenge and debate centred around medicinal marijuanas in Australia that continues to evolve – affordability.
The Question of Affordability
Medicinal marijuanas in Australia, like any other medication/treatment, have a price tag. Like a number of experimental treatments and therapeutic possibilities – a large majority of medical cannabis products are not currently on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The Government subsidised setup was initially formed to provide as much care as possible for Australian patients who needed medications at a more affordable price. Since a large majority of medical cannabis products are not on the PBS, the costs can be less reasonable.
The question of affordability can be answered by looking at two subsets of the medical cannabis industry – research and cultivation. Of course, a multitude of factors contribute to the pricing of medication, and the following two factors can at least partially explain the recent spike in accessibility and affordability.
There is a wide range of exciting research proposals and experiments occurring in the pharmaceutical and medical spaces with respect to medicinal marijuanas in Australia. This research has allowed more insight into the inner workings of the substance and its possible efficacy against a range of ailments.
The focus on a broader range of purposes and utilities for medicinal marijuanas in Australia through research alone has lowered the entry level for patients to be able to afford it more easily. In a larger scope, the alternative treatments offered through medical cannabis could also theoretically assist with affordability by substituting more expensive pharmaceuticals with this treatment option (if applicable).
The initial years of medicinal marijuanas in Australia were met with exorbitant pricing due to the necessity of importation for patients. As we had no means for mass cultivation in the initial stages of legalisation, as well as having a red-tape-laden approvals system in place – the patients were the ones taking the brunt of the cost initially.
As popularity began to grow and more patients began coming out of the woodwork, there was renewed interest in the industry and its potential capabilities for patients, physicians, and cultivators. Changes to the approvals process for physicians and patients made the treatment more accessible as well, which accounts for a consistent rise in prescriptions.
As there was more demand, there was plenty of room for local growers and cultivating companies to begin producing to meet this demand. According to reports, there have been 66 cultivation and 57 manufacturing licenses awarded to Australian cultivators as of May 2022. This springing of local production has cut costs of importation dramatically, which has bled into the overall costs of medicinal marijuanas in Australia.
With more research backing medicinal marijuanas in Australia and an increase in local cultivation – there is a dawn on the horizon for patients around the country with further affordability.