NSW Health data released today shows that between August 2016 and December 2017, only 61 NSW patients had their applications for medicinal cannabis approved – apart from those on official clinical trials.
NSW Labor leader in the Upper House Adam Searle and Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord questioned whether the Berejiklian government was actually committed to supporting access to medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill.
Mr Searle and Mr Secord called on the government to ‘remove the state government’s obstacles and look for ways to expand access for those in need – especially palliative care patients’.
The opposition is introducing a new bill into the upper house that it hopes will help many more terminally ill patients to access new cannabis-based drugs without having to go on trials to get access to them.
Mr Searle said while in Canada and Israel, there are tens of thousands of patients getting lawful access to medicinal cannabis.
In Israel, there are 26,000 registered medicinal cannabis users and its total population is almost the same as NSW.
‘It’s deeply disappointing to see the lack of effective action by the NSW government in providing pain relief to those suffering terminal and serious medical conditions,’ Mr Searle said.
‘The opposition is being told that patients with terminal illnesses in NSW are suffering because the government is making doctors submit and re-submit applications, resulting in hours and hours of unnecessary and cumbersome paperwork. The requirement for people who are seriously ill to have to navigate complex bureaucratic processes is clearly not working simply or effectively.
‘Access to a safe and secure supply of medicinal cannabis is about compassion. That means we have to find a more responsive way forward,’ he said.
Mr Secord said the system is so ‘needlessly bureaucratic’ that patients have been actively discouraged from even applying – with a mere 84 lodging applications.
‘The current approach by the Berejiklian government is to give the impression that they support access to medicinal cannabis, but then on the other hand to thwart the applications. This is completely against the spirit of the good work of the former Premier Mike Baird,’ he said.
In the period 1 August 2016 to 31 December 2017, NSW Health says it received just 84 applications for authority to prescribe and supply cannabis-based products (including nabiximols, dronabinol, and nabilone) for the treatment of individual patients.
‘The Berejiklian government needs a shake-up. I have received dozens of inquiries and requests about medicinal cannabis. I do not believe that only 84 patients have come forward,’ Mr Secord said.
‘The government must remove the obstacles and provide access for terminally ill patients. The community’s views are clear and they want to see medicinal cannabis available to the terminally ill,’ he said.
‘It is heart-breaking for family members to see their loved ones suffering when access to medicinal cannabis can relieve a tiny fraction of their pain,’
Last Thursday (February 22), Mr Searle introduced the legislation – the Medicinal Cannabis (Compassionate Access) Bill 2018 – into the NSW Parliament to legalise medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill and people with serious illness. Debate will resume in early March.
Labor’s legislation, first introduced in February 2017, aims to provide ‘a safe and lawful way for sufferers to access medicinal cannabis’.
It would require patients to receive a photo ID and medical certification from NSW Health in order to possess medicinal cannabis. These amounts can be adjusted by regulation, according to the medical treatment needed.